Earlier this week, Amazon unveiled the Octocopter – an aerial delivery drone capable of carrying packages weighing up to 2.3 kilograms and whizzing them to homes within 30 minutes. Amazon Prime Air, as the service is known, probably won't be ready for another five years, but it's already prompted UPS to announce that it's researching their own competitive drone delivery service now.
Both instances mark the technology's first tentative step into mainstream, commercial usage. Right now, aerial unmanned vehicles are more closely associated with indiscriminate military strikes in Pakistan and severe PTSD. (For its operators, at least – its victims are more likely to be maimed or blown apart. Thanks, Obama!) So what could be smilier or more innocuous than a friendly yellow Amazon bucket, attached to what resembles a doll-sized BBQ unit?
I missed an Amazon drone delivery. pic.twitter.com/neJxYANj6p— B to A to the R R Y (@QuantumPirate) December 2, 2013
Domestic drones have been flying within our borders for years, albeit with questionable legality (the commercial use of drones is curtailed, or banned outright, in several US states). That might be set to change in a few years, when restrictions on civil airspace will be lifted. Over the next few years, drones will likely play an increasing role in everyday life – and as with any form of technology, that's not inherently a bad thing. All that matters, though, is how it'll be used – and as this list illustrates, there is more than one way to live that drone life.
Unsurprisingly, police forces have been keen to adopt drones, citing their usefulness in search operations and information gathering operations. In America, several sheriff offices have already started using drones, while Britain's police minister, Damian Green, would like drones to be treated "like any other piece of police kit" – albeit one that might be able to fly over your homes and offices and record your every move.
DELIVERING JUNK FOOD
California has its Burrito Bomber; Berlin has the DönerCopter; even London has the Yo!Sushi drone. The future of takeover food might look very different – and if drone delivery services take off, thousands of delivery drivers and bikers might find themselves out of a job.
COVERING THE NEWS
This October, the Beeb unveiled the 'hexacoptor' – a multi-bladed, titanium and carbon camera that can climb to 400 ft. With their aerial perspective and panning abilities, drones are increasingly being used to cover large-scale news events, where they can help in gauging the numbers in a protest or the extent of damage in a natural disaster. Thai media outlets have used drones extensively to film the recent protests in Bangkok.
REMOTELY SPY ON YOUR ENEMIES
The US isn't the only state using drones in the Middle East. This year, the UK bought five more Reaper aircraft, bringing its total number of unmanned drones to ten. While the planes are based at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, they are remotely controlled by pilots at a Lincolnshire base.
According to the Ministy of Defence, the majority of drones are used for surveillance, which is still not entirely comforting – according to a case brought against the MoD, the UK shares intel with the CIA (which uses drones to target and kill insurgents, often with questionable accuracy).
HUNTING WILD ANIMALS
Introducing the Dehogaflier – the remote nightvision drone that helps Louisiana hunters track and kill feral pigs, who often chew through backyards and cause havoc in the state. When the hunters spot a pig on the live video feed, they use a rifle with a night vision scope to shoot it instantly. They've also uploaded a video of their hunting highlights, if you're into that.
TRANSPORTING EMERGENCY RELIEF SUPPLIES
When natural disasters strike, aid workers struggle with getting medical supplies, food and relief where it's needed most. Enter US start-up Matternet, which is test-driving drones as a transport vehicle for emergency relief in remote areas of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Cover image by @QuantumPirate
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing