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Drones for Fun and Profit

Drones for Fun and Profit

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Published by Bob Gourley
CTOlabs report on Drones for Fun and Profit, a review of issues and actions IT departments will want to think through as their organizations adopt UAV and other drones.
CTOlabs report on Drones for Fun and Profit, a review of issues and actions IT departments will want to think through as their organizations adopt UAV and other drones.

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Published by: Bob Gourley on Sep 21, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Domestic Drones: Expect Impacts on your IT Infrastructure
Domestic drone use has been in the spotlight latelyas pundits, journalists, and politicians debate anddiscuss the possibility of launching strikes against Americans at home. Much more likely, however, isthe productive use of drones without weapons or even surveillance equipment. Although the militaryand law enforcement are the only authorized usersof drones (with businesses barred from usingunmanned aerial vehicles domestically), theFederal Aviation Administration hopes to beginissuing private drone licenses by 2015. Thoughthere are still many technical, legal, privacy, andsafety issues that need to be resolved beforeprivate drones become commonplace, UAVs havethe potential to generate more fun and profit than threat for individuals and industry.
Domestic Drone Use Cases
Drones have begun to be featured prominently in cinema, but they can play an even morecrucial role in creating it. This is why the Motion Picture Association of America is currently oneof the organizations pushing hardest for domestic drone for shooting aerial scenes. Usingunmanned aerial vehicles is safer, cheaper, and can be more effective at close range thantraditional methods such as cranes or helicopters. Not only could drones film other aircraft withless risk of collision, but they can also follow rapidly moving action on the ground, and havebeen used in both applications abroad. Another promising use for private drones is inagriculture. Large agricultural companies such asMonsanto are now championing the use of unmanned systems, whether aerial or on theground, to collect data on vast fields of crops,thereby reducing personnel costs. Drones canreduce the cost of managing large plots of land inother ways as well by taking over functions such ascrop dusting.
Drones are also being explored as a tool for  journalism. While professional journalists are currentlybarred from using unmanned aerial vehicles for their stories, the University of Missouri and University of Nebraska both offer courses on drone reporting inanticipation of changing laws and practices. Dronescan fulfill similar functions in journalism as they do infilmography, providing pictures or video of hard toreach or dangerous sites. They can also takemeasurements and gather data safely, cheaply, andeffectively.Not all potential uses of private, domestic drones arepragmatic, however. Sometimes, drones are simplyfun. As robots and unmanned aerial systems growcheaper, they are finding expanded recreational use. Most drones are, after all, advancedversions of the radio controlled airplanes, helicopters, and cars. This trend has extended intolow cost personal quadcopters with novel applications such as the Joggobot, which tracks andfollows runners using a symbol on their shirts. Like most personal drones, however, theJoggobot still has a ways to go and is plagued by battery life and airspeed issues. Still,diminishing complexity through simpler controls, autopilot assistance, and greater technicalresilience in case of inevitable crashes or botched landings, along with dropping prices asunmanned systems become commodity technology, make recreational drones increasinglyfeasible toys and gadgets.
Domestic Drone Policy Issues
Technical issues aside, however, private drones stillface sizable policy and legal hurdles in the UnitedStates. There are a number of safety and privacy issuesthat need to be resolved before individuals andcorporations can operate their own drones or reporterscan use UAVs to break a story. From a purely practicalperspective, though drones are unmanned they are stillvehicles that may require skilled pilots and can dosignificant damage in a crash, necessitating licensingand safety regulations. Drones with recordingequipment also bring about warranted surveillanceconcerns as they expand private citizens’ means of spying and challenge reasonable expectations of privacy that determine legal and acceptable behavior. If, for example, it is acceptable to see

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