Friday, October 2, 2015

Drones For Everyone: Uneccessary Or Inevitable?

Start-Up CyPhy's latest model, the LVL 1

New Jersey over the past few years has suddenly become a state home to an increasing amount of drone enthusiasts. Hobby groups like the Oaklyn Rotor-E Drone Club have proven there is a sizable amount of the public, of all income and demographics, that not only enjoy drone technology for individual purposes, but social interaction as well.

With that in mind, it's only a matter of time before someone puts serious investment behind an effort to integrate drones into our day-to-day lives. That said, how, exactly, should they fit into those lives? The established feature of drone-tech-the camera- has been used recently in a variety of monitor-oriented methods. One such example is the implementation of a drone by Turner Corporation to oversee the Kings arena construction site in Sacramento, California. While there is real value in getting real-time data return on the productivity of a construction team, this application of constant surveillance can have the adverse effect of overworked laborers aware of always being watched (not to mention annoying them as well; nobody likes an "all-seeing eye" camera above them at work.)

On the individual level, however, drone technology, while harder to practically apply, makes a lot more sense. Imagine the drone not as a primary point of focus every time you use it, but an accessory in the background, providing functional information when needed and serving as an extension of your smartphone. Gizmodo, in a recent podcast, featured a project by the R&D lab Superflux, called the Drone Aviary. The purpose of the project was to explore literally every practical purpose having a drone nonchalantly hovering in a person's own "bubblespace". The results were quite interesting: monitoring health, pets at home, traffic while running or bicycling, even a house or apartment while you sleep. Those were just a fraction of the myriad of possibilities Superflux's design team came up with, and when put into the context of app technology, it is quite possible one drone can be programmed through a smartphone to perform each function on command.

Some would say that while a nice idea, the hardware of a drone is not at a point where navigating the pitfalls of real-world use, like accidents, mistakes of use, or outright vandalism, is possible. Maybe so, but more and more, start-ups are building drones customized exactly for these kinds of variables. Take the CyPhy LVL 1 for example; a lightweight, hard plastic drone with its camera built inside to take into account environmental hazards. Not only can it be "added on" with supplemental tech to do different things, but its geometric design enables it to fly in close quarters, around tight corners, and always with its camera level; in other words, ideal for densely populated urban landscapes.

Yes, this is a long way down the road, and most likely coming after drones are used in a sparse way that takes into account just how much of a nightmare mass use could be for air traffic and congestion (as the recent disaster of a wildfire on the route 5 interstate in California illustrated. Drones can seriously impede needed air services we depend on.) However, as they get cheaper to make and various in use, it is only a matter of time before the public will be clamoring for a drone of their own. The industry is closer to meeting that demand than it may seem.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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