It all started with Google talking about drones, then Amazon going to deliver your shopping using drones, after that we had Facebook’s Internet.org saying it would use drones to get broadband to remote areas, and now you can have your own drone to take those selfie photos that we all love so much. If this blog were a movie, it would be called “Rise of the Drones.”
Google plans to conduct test flights of its first drones any day now, following its purchase of unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer Titan Aerospace. They will be used to provide Internet access to areas without ground-based access. The lightweight solar-powered drones will hover in the stratosphere for long periods, providing an alternative to satellites. Google plans to partner with local Internet service providers.
Amazon’s plan is to deliver packages in just 30 minutes using their new drones—although how it will put a note through your door when you are out, they don’t say. Putting that to one side, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has published Amazon’s patent application for this drone delivery system. Shoppers can use the “Bring It To Me” option and have the delivery come to wherever they are at that moment. And if they have moved between making the order and the drone taking off, it will still find them. For air safety reasons, the drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) will provide each other with information about weather conditions, landing conditions, traffic, etc.
Internet.org’s plans are very similar to Google’s in that they plan to fly drones in the stratosphere so that people underneath can get broadband access. In fact, Internet.org was one of the bidders for Titan Aerospace, who Google purchased. Internet.org is a joint venture between Facebook and seven mobile phone companies. They talk about using High Altitude, Long Endurance UAVs.
So what about that selfie? Just as your friends are reaching for their selfie stick, you can launch your own drone—although much smaller than the ones used by Internet.org, which are said to have a wingspan longer than a 737. Selfie drones are likely to make aerial photography the in thing for 2016.
What are your choices? There’s Lily, a self-flying drone that connects to a portable tracker and follows the user at a fixed distance. It combines GPS tracking with a high-power camera and can follow at a distance of between 5 and 100 feet while filming. It can fly at 25 miles per hour, is fully waterproof, has a built-in microphone and can stay in the air for up to 20 minutes. Because it flies itself, you don’t need to spend time using arcane controls. And the film footage can end up on your phone for you to put on Facebook or whatever. Best of all, its price tag is a smidge under $500. These much-smaller drones are referred to as nano-UAVs. And maybe you won’t buy one, you’ll just borrow one when you go on those amazing country walk or trips along the cliffs. It will certainly make for more interesting photos than all those pictures of people’s dinners that you often get on Instagram.
I think the sky will be full of UAVs in a few years’ time: big one’s delivering Internet services—and that could be mainframe monitoring data while you’re holidaying away from it all—and very small ones being used for fun by individuals. And maybe we’ll see ones that are little bigger than insects, carrying a camera in their nose, taking photos of whatever you’re doing—skiing for the first time, enjoying a barbeque with friends and family or taking magnificent aerial photos as you go for a bicycle ride in the countryside.
And, of course, there’s always the military.
Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd, an IT consultancy. A popular speaker and blogger, he currently chairs the Virtual IMS and Virtual CICS user groups. He’s editorial director for the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, and for many years edited Xephon’s Update publications.