When we imagine the future of warfare, we often envision a battlefield where humanoid robots and other machines fight alongside or in the place of human soldiers. From the droids of Star Wars to The Terminator’s cyborg soldiers, robots play a prominent role in our collective vision of future combat.
Development of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, is one of the fastest-growing and, yet, controversial sectors of aerospace, yet it is forecast that it could be worth as much as $62 billion a year to the global aerospace industry by 2020, creating hundred of thousands of jobs. The civilian drone market alone is possibly worth more than $400 billion according to a UK research project backed by the government and top aerospace companies.
An Irish surveyor tested results (and had those results peer reviewed through the local university) of surveys done by drone and software vs. doing it by hand (which took days longer). The surveyor is now prepared to stand by drone and software results in a court of law.
2013 was a year filled with talk of drones.
I’m not saying this just because I’m biased by the recent news reporting on how large companies (Amazon, DHL, and UPS to be exact) are exploring the use of drones as a new delivery mechanism. If this is news to you, don’t worry. The robotics community came across this only a couple of weeks ago.
Amazon announced yesterday that it is developing a drone delivery service called Prime Air that will aim to get packages into customer’s hands within 30 minutes. They are planning to launch as soon as FAA regulations are lifted — as early as 2015. Amazon states that safety will be their top priority. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, “Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood.”
Two small drones, Insitu‘s Scan Eagle X200 and AeroVironment‘s PUMA, have become the first federally certified unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for civilian use in the US. One will operate off the Alaska coast to survey ice floats and wildlife; the other will conduct commercial environmental monitoring in the Arctic Circle, assist emergency response teams in oil spill monitoring and conduct wildlife observations.
A growing business within Parrot S.A., (PARRO:EUROLIST B) is their AR.Drone line of products, parts and software. Their first quadcopter product was developed internally by (1) observing the $1 billion market in radio controlled helicopters, (2) seeing gamers interest in using their game devices to drive cars, planes and copters, and (3) the increasingly widespread use of MEMS inertial sensors and high-definition digital cameras in consumer products.