New technologies will change our lives in countless ways in the coming years and decades. While technological innovations and their consequences are often unforeseeable, many predictable changes coming in the very near future will be the result of drone technology.
24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the significant ways drones may dominate our lives in the coming years. In some areas, drones will likely lead to more jobs or better jobs, while in others it will likely eliminate some jobs. Further, some consequences and aspects of drone technology and future drone use are unsettling.
While militaries have been using drones as surveillance and combat tools (among other functions) for some time now, recently industries as diverse as agriculture, oil and gas exploration, telecommunications, and delivery services have increased their use of drones.
According to Goldman Sachs Research, businesses are just beginning to explore commercial applications of drones. The researchers estimate that by 2020 a range of industries, including construction, clean energy, cinematography, and journalism, will all be tapping the potential of drones.
The applications of drones are almost endless. Operators can help identify a wildfire’s hot spots, inspect oil and gas pipelines, monitor crops, create maps, and so on. Goldman Sachs believes the broader drone market opportunity over the next four years could be a $100 billion opportunity, helped by growing demand from the commercial and civil government sectors.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy projected in 2016 that the commercial drone industry will add $82 billion to the economy in the next decade. The office also expects the drones market will help to create 100,000 jobs by 2025.
The increased use of drones has already created some problems as regulations are still catching up to the new technology. For one, there have been many reports in recent years of near-collisions between drones and aircraft. This led to the creation of the equivalent of an air-traffic-control system for drones. AirMap, a recent California startup, offers a real-time mapping service that also helps drone operators avoid both permanent and temporary no-fly zones. Microsoft Ventures and other companies invested $26 million in the company in 2017.
One of the biggest changes will likely be in the realm of geopolitics. While different defense branches of the United States were first to use drones, today several dozen countries have at least one military drone. According to some predictions, within 10 years, nearly every country in the world will be capable of developing military drones.
Drones may also result in significant changes in state and local law enforcement. Going forward, drones may be increasingly used in surveillance and crime prevention. However, police drone use also gives rise to a number of difficult questions concerning civil liberties, personal privacy, and potential weaponization by police departments and private security groups.
For better or worse, drones will play increasingly significant roles in our lives.
These are the 17 ways that drones will dominate our lives in the coming years.