Drones were a little bit like artificial intelligence: nobody took them seriously at the start of the decade, but by the end of it, they’ll be one of the most important things in our lives. Drones have come a long way since they were seen as toys for kids. They’ve gone decidedly mainstream, with practically every air travel regulator scrambling to come up rules, and punishments, for how they should be used.
The reasons drones have become so successful is that they have piggybacked on much of the technology and investment put into the smartphone industry. For a couple of decades now, smartphone companies have been pouring millions of dollars into making phone components, like cameras and accelerometers, smaller. Although nobody cottoned on at the time, these new technologies were paving the way to drones with remarkable capabilities. Thanks to their lightweight, smartphones proved to be the perfect bedrock on which to create the drones themselves.
So what’s going to happen to drones in the future?
#1: Drones Will Use Cutting Edge Smartphone Tech
To understand all sides of the drone debate, it’s important to understand just how important the smartphone market has been to the industry. But things aren’t going to stay still. Drones are going to continue to piggyback off the larger smart device industry, incorporating new innovations opportunistically, as they arrive. Drones are now using commonly available hardware and software from phone manufacturers and vendors.
Chris Anderson, the founder and CEO of 3D Robotics says that drones are effectively flying supercomputers. As a result, any algorithmic improvements that are made in other areas of tech can be imported into the drone space. This is why drones are already able to do things like avoid mid-air collisions and follow their owners from above.
#2: Sense-And-Avoid Will Become Standard
Today, if you want a drone that can avoid mid-air collisions – something the regulators are worried about – you have to spend a lot of money. But, like most things in tech, there’s a huge deflation rate for sense-and-avoid technologies. And there’s a good chance that they’ll become standard in 2017, changing the debate on who can fly drones and where.
Anderson says that drones will sprout eyes that can actually interpret what they’re seeing. And they’ll use LiDAR and other technologies to constantly scan their surroundings for potential collision threats. Don’t be surprised if the same technology that has made autonomous cars possible ends up in your drone.
#3: Drones Will Surpass Satellites In Data Collection
Spy satellites have been a thing ever since rockets began sending people into space. Over the years, they’ve gained a reputation for tracking anything and everything. But satellites are no longer the surveillance heavyweights they once were, all thanks to drones. Anderson says that drones are going to become the main way countries gather reconnaissance information. The reason for this is that drones are closer to the ground. They’re able to beam back higher resolution images than their satellite cousins, increasing their usefulness to the military.