Game of Drones: How eVTOLs and UAS Will Change UAM and Our Lives
From Agriculture to Zoology, a World of Mobile Opportunities
While most of the general public’s attention is focused on the prospect of flying cars, (“Damn you, Jetsons!”), much of business and industry (along with the military) remain focused on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), AKA drones, and how they can contribute to an enterprise’s bottom line by taking airborne pilots, photographers, and/or videographers out of the picture, so to speak.
Colleges and universities, such as California University of Pennsylvania, have begun offering degrees and certificates in UAS systems and technologies with a rather compelling range of industry-changing prospects. The possibilities are far-ranging, to say the least.
Droning On: From Agriculture to Zoology
Cowboys may soon see their number of days wrangling down on the range dwindle as farmers turn to drones to manage and monitor livestock and spray crops. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is already using drones to fulfill its mission. Ranchers may soon join them.
For conservationists, using drones to monitor endangered species in numerous ecosystems worldwide will likely help them stretch their dollars and expand their efforts. One such initiative will be operated by the World Wildlife Fund and the Australian government to use drones to augment and improve the country’s annual koala count to help save the species on Kangaroo Island. Heat-seeking drones will be used as part of the AU$18 million (about US$13.6 million) effort to find the naturally shy marsupials. The program will also disperse eucalyptus tree seeds to provide additional food and shelter for the bears.
How Drones Might Change and Improve Lives
Private enterprises (such as Amazon Prime Air) have begun developing plans to deliver everything from food to gifts to prescription drugs. No doubt, the U.S. Postal Service and other postal agencies will heed the efficiency and cost-savings that UAVs will bring to package delivery too.
Disasters and disaster relief will also benefit from the speed and agility an UAV can bring to search-and-rescue efforts. Supplies, emergency medical kits, and other urgent care needs can be brought to where geography or terrain prevent people or larger aircraft from quickly providing care and services.
As load-capacity increases for drones, inventory management – moving goods from Point A to Point B – could have an impact on logistics. Trucking firms could see themselves converting from fleets of semi-tractor-trailer trucks to fleets of UAVs if they want to remain relevant and profitable.
Photographers, filmmakers, and photojournalists are already using drones to capture images to be used either as part of news stories or their cinematic or artistic endeavors. Drones are far less intrusive, visually and aurally, than helicopters or airplanes. They could reduce operators’ costs and expand opportunities that might otherwise be denied them by local authorities on behalf of their constituents.
As people across the globe become more Internet-dependent, some regions in developing countries still lack access because fundamental utilities, such as electricity, are not well-established. The use of solar-powered drones could be made available to millions of people, improving their lives by providing Internet access and the wealth or opportunities it affords.
Drones May Bring New Meaning to “Neighborhood Watch”
Law enforcement agencies might use UAVs to expand their oversight of the jurisdictions they police to assist with crowd management or to determine where emergency services are needed.
Landing just the right home could take on new meaning when drones are involved. Why drive through a prospective new neighborhood – sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles from your home – when your real estate agent could take you on virtual tour of not only the surrounding neighborhood and town, but even inside your prospective new home?
The Blue Sky Rescue Team near Chongqing, China, has used drones equipped with a fuel tank and arm-length nozzle to incinerate wasp nests that were threatening local residents. Volunteers raised 80,000 yuan (about US$12,250) to buy a drone and deploy it in defense of their neighborhoods from the stinging pests.
Some the U.S.’s most restrictive aviation laws are in New York City, where takeoffs and landings are limited to airports. But, New York City’s Department of Finance is sensing an opportunity to improve real property valuation for tax purposes. The New York City Council passed a bill on September 16, 2020, authorizing the City to study how drones can be used for building façade inspections.
While we’re certainly early on in this game of drones, the paths to winning – improving lives and livelihoods – is getting clearer by the day. Time will tell; only a few short years from now based on what we already know about UAM development.
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