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Drones- Achieving Greater ‘Heights’

September, 2020

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or so to say the infamous drones, haven’t failed to surprise us with their one too many applications - from entering warfare to making 30 minute deliveries a reality- this multifunctional device has been constantly hitting the headlines. 

Easily mistaken for a toy, drones are essentially remote controlled flying robots, however, their disruptive potential is becoming increasingly known as it transforms industries and the way we live, for the better and worse.

Drones, as we know, have had an ‘adventurous’ journey, with their history spanning wide from invention of armed drones in early 20th century for military purposes to consumer drones, and moving on to commercial drones to be used in business ventures.

From firefighting to farming, potential of the UAV industry seems limitless with major developments taking place in the space.

There isn’t a shortage of drone enthusiasts in the private sector with almost 1.1 million drones registered in the U.S. in 2019 (According to the FAA).

Its entry in the commercial and civil government sectors has propelled growth in the market with extensive application in news coverage, emergency services, delivery of goods, Wi-Fi access and environmental monitoring.

Drones have also made their mark in the field of biomimicry with ‘Plan Bee’ drones created to mimic a bee to stimulate growth of plants by cross-pollination as a possible solution to the 30% decline in bee populations around the world in the last decade. Similarly, bat bots have also been introduced in the past to mimic a bat’s flight. Major breakthroughs in this space have helped researchers and experts solve remaining puzzles over the aerodynamics of insect flight.

Ecommerce and logistics companies have been eyeing this versatile technology for quite long now, McKinsey predicts delivery drones will account for up to 80 per cent of deliveries in the future. Amazon’s ‘Prime Air’ uses drones to drop off retail packages to consumers’ doorsteps in less than 30 minutes. The last leg of deliveries- from the warehouse to the end customer- is the most expensive part of the supply chain which is why drones, while making deliveries faster, are also going to be cost-efficient for firms. In 2019 itself, three major U.S. companies have been granted approval for drone deliveries from the FAA.

Drones have found their way into the situation at hand as well by ensuring social distancing during the pandemic. They are also being used to disinfect public places and prevent further spread of the virus.

Despite the myriad of applications and benefits, drones have their fair share of disadvantages like any other disruptive technology. Though there are ample employment opportunities opening up in the UAV industry itself, drones are displacing jobs across industries due to lesser need for manpower. It poses a constant threat to other aerial machines and another big risk is from radiofrequency interference. Privacy and safety remain a major issue due to their intrusive nature, which is why it faces a constant battle with regulators.

With major breakthroughs in evolvement of these micro-flyers- like harnessing superpowers of bats to navigate in pitch darkness- the future for drones, undoubtedly, is shining bright. It will be interesting to see what the future holds, but for now getting your package delivered at a supersonic speed remains the hot potato worldwide.