Investment in unmanned aerial systems is soaring, but challenges remain. Here’s what stakeholders need to know about the evolving landscape.
Most people think of a drone, also known as an unmanned aerial system (UAS), as a sophisticated military technology or a hobbyist’s tool for capturing images of foliage, sporting events, and cityscapes. But businesses across industries realize that drones have multiple commercial applications, some of which go beyond basic surveillance, photography, or videos, and they are already using them to transform daily work in some industries. Insurance companies are using drones to inspect damaged assets, for instance, and farmers are sending them to monitor crops and collect soil data. Even more dramatic changes could be in store as innovators explore new uses, including drone-delivery services for retail stores and air taxis for commuters.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers.
Compared to manned aircraft, UAVs were originally used for missions too "dull, dirty or dangerous" for humans. While they originated mostly in military applications, their use is rapidly expanding to commercial, scientific, recreational, agricultural, and other applications, such as policing, peacekeeping, and surveillance, product deliveries, aerial photography, agriculture, smuggling, and drone racing. Civilian UAVs now vastly outnumber military UAVs, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015, so they can be seen as an early commercial application of Autonomous Things, to be followed by the autonomous car and home robots.
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