The wide and varied world of drones

BY newsdesk  December 14, 2013 at 6:05 PM EST

drone horizon shot

Probably the first thing that a drone aficionado will tell you is to not call them drones – call them UAS — for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

After Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ announcement that he hopes to begin home delivery by UAS in the not-too-distant future, there’s been renewed interest in the nonmilitary uses of the technology. Even the Senate has called for hearings on the subject. From fighting fires to tracking orangutans –potential for drone use can be found in most sectors of society. real estate drone A real estate company’s drone gives a neighborhood tour

Industry and commercial use

Jeff Bezos’ announcement of Amazon.com drone delivery has grabbed recent attention, but industry has been using UAS for years.

The oil industry uses drones to check pipeline condition. Farmers use them to keep track of crop progress. And, as seen above, real estate agencies are using drones to give a buyer’s eye view of neighborhoods to those far away.

Earlier this year a Shanghai company attempted a first by delivering cakes with drones. Deutsche Post is testing drove delivery services — flying trial packages of medicine across the Rhine.

World Wildlife Fund dronesThe promise of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and applications on the ground, World Wildlife Fund

Science and the environment

UAS can also be used by researchers interested in covering a wide area. Plus, drones are mapping archeological finds in Peru and protected sites from looters.

The World Wildlife Fund and zoologists are using drones to map habitat and combat poaching. And, drones are making inroads in medicine. Florida is considering using UAS to combat mosquitoes and drones already deliver crucial medicines to remote locations.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drone

Law enforcement and safety

The United Nations recently started using drones to monitor the situation in the north of The Democratic Republic of Congo. The United States already uses drones in border enforcement. And, Marseilles, France is considering using drones to patrol crime-torn neighborhoods.

In both nations using drones for law enforcement has raised issues of privacy and civil liberties. But drones are also used by authorities for safety — locating victims of car crashes and natural disasters and giving valuable information on forest fires.

U.S. drone development continues to expand

U.S. Air Force drone crew

As our piece on the challenges of regulating the growth of drones shows, the industry is ready to take off.

Congress ordered the FAA to let more drones start flying by September 2015 and before that, states and federal governments will have to deal with the issue of the safety of the already-crowded skies.

Currently, you cannot fly a UAS over a regulated height without a tether. A tethered drone can’t pass the FAA’s flight test, and can’t be marketed. The Air Line Pilot’s Association wants UAS pilots doesn’t want thousands of drones in the air until safety issues have been solved.

There’s also been questions raised about privacy concerns.

The recent battle in a Colorado town over licenses to shoot down drones is just one manifestation of public concern. At FAA approved test sites, drones will be able to fly without the tether.

You can keep track of U.S. drone development by following the links below: