13 October 2016

What is this “drone” stuff all about?

With the arrival of drones that have a GoPro attached to them, and Amazon’s delivery system, the popularity of these small semi-autonomous machines has surged. They are fun, affordable, and spark a lot of curiosity.

Already widespread in many private industries, drones have been tested and proved very beneficial. However, unless some issues are clarified, they will remain largely illegal.

Looking at the market prospects, the numbers are highly encouraging: The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that by 2020 there will be 7 million drones. Brett Davis from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems said that by 2025 the drone market will be worth more than 86bn $ in the US. Multiplying this around the world, we’re talking of a significant amount of money.

The European Commission actively supports drones (officially being called “Unmanned Aircraft”) because of the potential of growth and jobs, offering generous financial incentives to research projects, startups and companies that develop drones. The EC estimates that drones will create between 150k and 200k new jobs in the EU in the next two decades.

Mentioning only some of the specific areas where drones have already been proven useful:

  • in agriculture where drones are used for crop mapping or leak detection in irrigation systems;
  • in the oil & gas industry for pipeline inspection, emergency responses and reducing risk around employees by sending drones to inspect dangerous areas;
  • in construction for building scanning.

But using drones is not as easy as it sounds. First, operators need specialists training because they are technically part of the aviation which brings a lot of responsibilities, liabilities and regulations. Second, there are also ethical and legal issues: drones raise privacy, nuisance, safety and trespassing concerns; then there is a significant danger to nearby planes or people. And what happens when operators harass individuals, fly recklessly, or cause injury to property or persons?

What are we witnessing is similar to the arrival of cars in the early 1900s. It took public administrations more than 50 years to bring order and standards into the roads. A world full of drones and no regulations would look like a nightmare so there’s understandingly a great deal of pressure on the bureaucratic systems to adapt to the fast-paced environment technology brings.

And above all, join us at the Unconvention in Brussels between 23 – 25 January 2017 where you will be able to discuss these new challenges with top experts. Reserve your early bird ticket here!

Sources: TechCrunch, TechCrunch, Financial Times, Financial Times, Euronews.