Today I read an article that is registering with my thoughts more agreeably as time goes on. That is to say that at first, I felt the article was too negative and dismissive of the concept of using commercial drones. But as I continue to stew on Mr. Lardinois’ ideas of what we should realistically expect from commercial drones, I do not only agree with him as far as his predictions go, but I am also excited to see how many of them become true.
I posted a small blurb about my thoughts of commercial drones not long ago, back when Amazon announced their idea of Amazon Prime Air. I was not overly optimistic about their use of drones in that post, and I think Mr. Lardinois has left his own feelings of skepticism in the article; as he should have. But I get the impression, based on the latter half of the article, that neither of us have written the idea off entirely; not by a long shot. He throws com. drones a bone by acknowledging that the most likely and practical use of drones will be in shipping – as Amazon (likely unintentionally) alluded to. But according to Mr. Lardinois, the drones that will be seen first are going to be larger shipping drones. For instance, instead of spending the fuel and time to have a puddle jumper fly a smaller container of goods from one local to another that is within a relatively short distance, the shipment can instead be transported by a large Quadcopter which will complete the trip autonomously. Although I had never considered this concept before, it is a far more practical use of drone technology than the idea presented by Amazon.
To expand on this idea, it is important to remember that there are many companies that would currently benefit from the use of automated drones, but many are simply not willing to take the risk of applying drones to their operations. If the FAA, Amazon, and the USPS all do their part in showing that using drones commercially is a doable and financially sound concept, other companies will follow their lead.
But alas, we must revisit the obstacles these drones will have to overcome. One key issue that I feel Lardinois stresses is the need for FAA regulation of these drones. Not only is this a legal necessity, but it will also improve the safety of the average flyover citizen, the safety of other air travelers, and the financial security of the company who owns the drone. Along these same lines, Lardinois points to the fact that pilots undergo serious training before they are allowed to pilot aircraft – will the same be true for drone operators?
In my opinion, this question falls into a legal grey area that follows two strains of thought. The first being that, yes, it would be dangerous to allow just anyone to fly a drone, and therefore a special permit should be required. On the other hand, a law like this would have to be carried over to the use of personal drones in order for the law to have any real effect. Given this, how are we to define the difference between 12 year old Johnny flying his new RC drone he got for his birthday, and a sinister terrorist/bad-guy flying the same drone into a populated area armed with explosives? I don’t have an answer for this thought yet, and Lardinois doesn’t bring the subject up.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lardinois has presented some new and interesting ideas about what we should expect from drones in the future, and I can’t help but feel that he’s on to something.