Last summer, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration issued its operational rules for commercial use of drones. The rules allow drones to be used commercially in the U.S. if they weigh less than 55 pounds and operate at a maximum altitude of 400 feet, which is below commercial airspace. However, drones cannot be flown beyond the visual line-of-sight at this time.
Over the next 10 years, industry experts believe the new rules could add more than $82 billion to the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs in drone manufacturing, flight training, start-up ventures and commercial applications. Two critical steps on the path to an autonomous drone fleet are longer battery life and the development of “detect and avoid” technologies to prevent mid-air collisions.
Amazon and Facebook are two prominent companies investing in the drone industry. Facebook hopes to use solar drones to extend internet connectivity worldwide. Amazon has partnered with the British government to test its drone delivery technology.
Beyond their use for deliveries, drones are already in use in several industries around the world for a variety of purposes:
- Media – gather information and shoot video footage
- Real estate – videotape and record information about houses, office buildings and properties
- Engineering – support surveying and maintenance work for road construction and infrastructure projects
- Oil and gas – survey oil rigs and pipeline maintenance
- Airlines – safety inspections of aircraft equipment
- Architecture and construction – gather information to develop 3D renderings and design specifications for proposed projects
- Agriculture – identify failing plants and inventory crops; spot spray water, pesticides and fertilizers
- Environmental monitoring and conservation – monitor and track animals to assess their health and population; record changes in habitats
As unmanned aircraft, drones can travel easily in places where airplanes cannot and significantly reduce the cost of collecting visual data. Their commercial application will continue to evolve and expand under the new rules. “7 Cool Commercial Drone Uses Coming to a Sky Near You,” by Adam C. Uzialko, Business News Daily, July 27, 2016. Available at: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9276-commercial-drones-business-uses.html  “With 1 Announcement, the FAA Just Created an $82 million Market and 100,000 New Jobs,” by Yoram Solomon, Inc., June 23, 2016. Available at: http://www.inc.com/yoram-solomon/with-one-rule-the-faa-just-created-an-82-billion-market-and-100000-new-jobs.html  “7 Cool Commercial Drone Uses Coming to a Sky Near You,” by Adam C. Uzialko, Business News Daily, July 27, 2016. Available at: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9276-commercial-drones-business-uses.html  “16 UK companies using drones: Royal Mail, Asda, the BBC and more – Here’s how drones are being used in 2016,” by Margi Murphy, Techworld, July 26, 2016. Slide presentation available at: http://www.techworld.com/picture-gallery/personal-tech/best-uses-of-drones-in-business-3605145-3605145/  “16 UK companies using drones: Royal Mail, Asda, the BBC and more – Here’s how drones are being used in 2016,” by Margi Murphy, Techworld, July 26, 2016. Slide presentation available at: http://www.techworld.com/picture-gallery/personal-tech/best-uses-of-drones-in-business-3605145-3605145/
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