The Drones Are Coming

So then – who doesn’t want a drone?

If you said no, I don’t believe you. If nothing else, they look like a great laugh. Whether you think you’d be any good at flying one or not, few people would I imagine turn down the chance to at least have a go.

Just to be clear, I’m talking about consumer and business applications here. I’m not suggesting we’re all chomping at the bit to get our hands on unmanned combat aerial vehicles packing firepower here. The ethics around that topic deserve a blog of their own.

The rise of drones has been a long time coming but it’s a topic that finally hit the mainstream around a year or so ago when Amazon announced their plans to trial drones for deliveries. More recently, the company announced that it plans to begin testing same-day delivery drones in Cambridge, England. And then I noticed that one of my old employers, HBJ, has just started using drone-recorded footage for some of its house sales.

The industry got another huge boost in profile today by the rumours that GoPro is developing a new line of consumer drones. When the company that’s known for its high quality video cameras and one that only this summer pulled off the biggest IPO of a consumer electronics company in 20 years moves into a high-growth area whilst already specialising in some amazing rugged video tech, you can bet there’s going to be some fun times ahead.

Interestingly though, it’s an area fraught with legal uncertainty as well. The UK’s laws differ from the US laws (which are shaping up to be far more onerous than the industry had hoped). As Wired has pointed out, there’s certainly turbulence ahead – whether that’s in the form of injury caused by a falling drone, privacy breached by a stalking machine or financial damage as a result of an attack launched on the communication between operator and machine.

But it’s great to see some really innovative companies making headway in this space, not least ex-Edinburgh startup good guy Jono Millin at DroneDeploy and Airware with powerful technology that can, amongst many other applications, only help to increase the efficiency of agricultural production in light of the impending food shortages.

It’s a space to watch no doubt about it. And not only because the video output can be utterly stunning. Speaking of which…