Drones

Drones or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAVs) will become a regular part of life, used in research, transportation and delivery, artistic production, news coverage and reporting, law enforcement and surveillance, and entertainment.

How It’s Developing

Up until recently, most drones have been used for surveillance, reconnaissance, security, or in warfare. [1] Because drones can be controlled remotely by pilots on the ground or autonomously by systems built into the vehicle, they provide an option for flight and exploration in places that might normally be too dangerous or difficult. 
 
Drones are quickly becoming more popular in artistic production, especially in film and movie productions, and in research, where they are used to survey land or animal species that might otherwise be difficult to reach. [2] Several news agencies (CNN, the Associated Press, Gannett, NBC, and The New York Times), have also begun testing drones for news gathering purposes. [3] Commercial use of drones became a point of particular interest in 2014 after Amazon announced its plan for Amazon Prime Air, a service to deliver goods by drone – and several other companies, including UPS, Google, and DHL have announced similar plans. [4] While drones’ use for aerial delivery receives significant attention, autonomous ground-based vehicles may also play a role in the delivery market, with firms like Dispatch exploring the use of unmanned ground vehicles to transport goods via existing sidewalks and delivering packages right to the door. [5]  
 
Drones could also play a role in the robot revolution. Researchers at the University of Leeds received a grant to explore drones as a part of “self-repairing cities,” deploying drones for a range of activities including “perch and repair” to perform tasks such as fixing street lights; “perceive and patch,” to autonomously inspect road surface, diagnose potholes, and patch up the road; and “fire and forget,” to live permanently in utility pipes, performing continuous monitoring and repair service. [6
 
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, currently bans the commercial use of drones without a waiver, though hobbyists can fly drones within certain restrictions (away from airports, under 400 feet, and within the operator’s sight). [7]
 
As individuals and businesses wait for regulations to respond to new demand and interest, manufacturing of drones has increased, with over 1,500 different kinds of drones being manufactured with capabilities for multiple different endeavors. [8

Why It Matters

Drones could help improve internet access in underserved areas. Google has included drones along with balloons (Project Loon) and low orbit satellites as possible means of providing internet access, especially in remote places. [9]
 
Drones could help improve outreach efforts, delivering resources to the geographically isolated or homebound, providing deposit collections to areas affected by disasters, transporting equipment to individuals borrowers or communities, or even connecting expert researchers via video-equipped drones. [10]
 
Because drones will provide new opportunities for content creation and research, users may expect drones to be part of the technology resources available from libraries. Additionally, video or survey content produced by drones may become content collected and managed by libraries. 
 
Even as drones open opportunities for creativity, research, and production, they also raise concerns for privacy and safety. Those concerns for safety are especially apparent in regions where drones are used for surveillance and warfare, where people live unaware if drones are used for surveillance or as part of an offensive. [11] Privacy concerns may only increase as drones become smarter and more autonomous, through the improvement of onboard systems, and smaller and cheaper, allowing them to proliferate through society and escape notice as they enter smaller spaces. [12]  

Notes and Resources

[1] “Drones: The Good, the Bad and the Future.” Hazel Davis. Virgin Unite. September 8, 2014. Available from http://www.virgin.com/unite/business-innovation/drones-the-good-the-bad-...
 
[2] “Drones: The Good, the Bad and the Future.” Hazel Davis. Virgin Unite. September 8, 2014. Available from http://www.virgin.com/unite/business-innovation/drones-the-good-the-bad-...
 
[3] "Associated Press, New York Times, and Others Will Test Drones with Virginia Tech's Help." Chris Welch. The Verge. January 15, 2015. Available from http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/15/7552215/associated-press-new-york-time...
 
[4] “The Biggest Test for Drones.” David Robson. BBC Future. October 8, 2014. Available from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141008-the-biggest-test-for-drones
 
[5] "Dispatch Joins The Ground Delivery Club." Nitish Kulkarni. TechCrunch. November 10, 2015. Available from http://techcrunch.com/2015/11/10/dispatch-joins-the-ground-delivery-club/
 
[6] "Cities of the Future Might Rely On Drones to Repair Themselves." Jennifer Passas. PSFK. October 29, 2015. Available from http://www.psfk.com/2015/10/cities-of-the-future-university-of-leeds-dro...
 
[7] “Drones Will Transform Sports Photography – Once the FAA Gets Out of the Way.” Jeff Beckham. Wired. September 23, 2014. Available from http://www.wired.com/2014/09/drones-will-transform-sports-photographyonc... 
 
[8] “Drones and Everything After.” Benjamin Wallace-Wells. New York Magazine. October 5, 2014. Available from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/10/drones-the-next-smartphone....
 
[9] “Google testing drones that could provide Internet access to remote lands.” John Brodkin. ArsTechnica. September 15, 2014. Available from http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/09/google-testing-dro... 
 
[10] "192 Future Uses for Flying Drones." Thomas Frey. FuturistSpeaker. September 2, 2014. Available from http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2014/09/192-future-uses-for-flying-drones/
 
[11] “Drones and Everything After.” Benjamin Wallace-Wells. New York Magazine. October 5, 2014. Available from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/10/drones-the-next-smartphone....
 
[12] “Top 10 Reasons Drones Are Disruptive.” Peter Diamandis. Forbes. August 11, 2014. Available from http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdiamandis/2014/08/11/top-10-reasons-dro...