Amazon’s aim of transforming e-commerce standards, perhaps even from same day to same hour delivery via drones, continues to make headlines. But as drone technology develops at jet speed, there is a whole host of other industries outside of e-commerce that stand to be disrupted in 2017.
In fact, many are already in the midst of a drone-powered revolution: agriculture, cinema, event photography, and inspections (of roofs, bridges, cell towers, and other potentially dangerous, hard to get to sites ) to name just a few. Drone deployment has been slow until now, partly due to stringent regulations. But here are six industries in which we can expect drones to take off in 2017.
1. Gaming and sports
If 2016 was the year drones were used to film sports, 2017 is the year they’ll be used as sports. Drone racing and drone shooting are both gaining popularity and prestige, though both of these activities keep drone and operator, for the most part, separate. But look for drone boarding (hook a tow rope to a drone, whether on water or snow, and away you go) to take to the skies this year as well. The rider can control the speed and direction of the drone from a remote control down below.
Expect augmented reality (AR) to penetrate the drone gaming space as well, where flying a drone will be like piloting an F-15 into aerial battle thanks to AR technology … or think of Pokémon Go with wings.
Last year, Rwanda launched the world’s first national drone delivery service to transport much-needed blood supplies to hard-to-reach rural areas. But that is just the beginning.
While drug and blood delivery between medical facilities can make a huge difference in peoples’ lives, drones can also be used as instantaneous delivery mechanisms within hospitals to deliver life-saving medical materials faster and more efficiently than is otherwise possible. One operator can control up to 20 drones, in theory making 20 life-saving on-campus deliveries simultaneously.
3. Search and rescue
You may have heard about drones aiding in search and rescue missions in perilous terrain where helicopters don’t dare to fly, but drones have also been outfitted to help in firefighting. The New York City Fire Department is experimenting with a UAV that can beam both video and infrared images back to command and control, giving chiefs much more real time information that can help with immediate response, saving firefighters’ lives.
At the beach, with the help of advanced image recognition, drone surveillance capabilities can be much more effective than the human eye, scanning much larger swaths of water to pick out those floundering at sea, and deliver rescue flotation devices much quicker than their beefy Baywatch counterparts (though they can’t administer CPR … yet).
4. Police and defense
There have been many serious concerns about drones of late, including how to monitor recreational drone use and prevent spying, illegal video recording, and dangerous terror attacks. Some startups are developing means to fight fire with fire, using drones to police the skies and catch suspicious or illegally flying UAVs.
In the military, drones will be able to act as remote communications hotspots for military forces operating in remote areas, ensuring all forces stay “on the radar.” Similar civilian uses will extend coverage and bandwidth at large-scale temporarily-populated events, such as concerts, marches, or disaster scenes.
5. Arts and entertainment
Hundreds of millions of people caught a preview of what drones can do on the entertainment front during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance, where the drones themselves served as a thousand points of light in a breathtaking feat of UAV pyrotechnics. Look for similar performances as drones find their way into artistic expressions, including dance and other art forms.
Instantaneous drone delivery may be sexy, but the work drones can do behind the scenes may be equally important to retailers and shippers. Drones provide the unique ability to survey and scan factory shelving, products, and containers efficiently and inexpensively. So while manufacturers are scrambling to fully automate warehouses with robotics – which could be years away – the truth is, we’re much closer to seeing drones glide into the supply chain, scanning the grounds and taking stock.
The sky’s the limit
Look for the above industries to soar to new heights in 2017 thanks to drone technology. As drone technology improves and regulatory hurdles are overcome, drones will prove more efficient, reliable, and safe than legacy technologies in industries we never even imagined.
Yariv Bash is CEO and cofounder of Flytrex.