Top eight ways drones will be used to save lives and improve the environment


Automation will change the way we work. Businesses and customers benefit when menial jobs are automated. Robots don’t make mistakes and never complain. But automation means fewer job opportunities.  This list outlines eight jobs that, for better or worse, will quite possibly be taken over by automateddrones within the next decade.

Mountain rescue: going from most to least probable, we start with rescue missions. Rather than sending teams of people trekking through dangerous conditions looking for lost hikers or deploying helicopters, imaging scattering dozens of autonomous drones capable of meticulously covering every crevice, cave and hillside and packed with heat, motion and other types of sensors. This idea has already taken flight, with a British company (AeroSee) that “crowd-sources” search and rescue by using drones to take video and letting internet users search for lost hikers online.

Poaching prevention: animal welfare groups in England have already begun exploring the use of drones to catch hunters that use illegal techniques like using dogs to hunt foxes. Animal rights groups around the world may have the opportunity to effectively and efficiently regulate illegal methods, without sending out ground teams to do the dirty work. Last year Google began giving to the World Wildlife Fund for a drone program in Africa and Asia which would focus on preventing rhino poaching. From rhinos to anti-whaling flyers off the coast of Japan, entire species could be saved through these efforts.

Weather monitoring: with enough drones in the skies, exact timing and magnitude of storms and hurricanes can be relayed to the public. NASA is already using two drones over the Atlantic Ocean to monitor hurricanes in the heavy summer season. With real-time updates, weather prediction models and meteorology would be heavily automated.

Real-time environmental monitoring: between environmental mapping, finding discolorations in water, or monitoring chemicals at higher altitudes, the possibilities are endless. In essence, one drone could find the most affected areas, relaying the information to people who could better concentrate their efforts. In time, nature reserves and highly populated areas around the world could be covered, from aquatic drones in the Great Barrier Reef to high flyers above factory ladened cities.

Disaster Relief: imagine if hundreds (if not thousands) of drones could have been quickly deployed after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to identify and deliver life-saving supplies and medical kits to people directly in their home and on rooftops.  The National Guard should put a focus on the ability to quickly deploy drone fleets in these types of disaster scenarios.

SpeedEnforcedByDronesHighway oversight: you may have see these fake highway signs that warn of drones monitoring for speeding violations. It may not be too far off.  Why not use low-cost, autonomous drones to monitor traffic safety, congestion, to detect drunken drivers and even to enforce traffic regulations. License plates of the future may be fixed to the top of cars.

Delivering Mail and Packages: The Silicon vally start-up Matternet is already planning a massive interconnected drone delivery system for drugs and supplies in parts of the world where transportation is difficult. The next step would be adding speed to deliveries in developed countries by using drones. The technology is close, but legal restrictions must catch up.

Waiting Tables: Getting to the more absurd and futuristic, but still very possible, we have automated restaurant waiters. In high end, high price restaurants, the personal touch of an actual waiter will likely always be desirable. But in lower cost, large table quantity places, an automated service system could increase speed and cut cost for owners. This idea is already in practice, but mostly for novelty’s sake. It will likely take a few years for full automation and reliability to become possible. And OK, although this one probably won’t save any lives, who doesn’t want to watch their food to float towards them.

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