Drones use to be used on the battlefields, but now they can be used recreationally for photography, videography and even pizza delivery
BY JASON RAMROOP
When talking about drones, people may have two completely different perceptions. They either think about the three-pound recreational drone used to capture aerial footage, or a 250-pound weapon of war used to give the military an overview of the battlefield.
The word ‘drone’ is associated with both items. Despite the fact that they are both unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), they are nothing alike. According to Nesta.org, an online blog focused on innovation, the first drones, or UAVs, were used after the Second World War for military field operations. Drones may have originated from the military, but what people think of today as the modern day recreational drone are more likely to be the ones found at the local Best Buy looking like futuristic robots in glass cases with astronomical price tags.
Although weaponized drones are still being used for military applications today, a separate market of drones has evolved for more practical/everyday purposes such as photography, videography and delivery. Drones are no longer just for capturing camera angles from views that were previously impossible. The technology and popularity of drones have increased, so has the range of intention.
Recently, Transport Canada has introduced new laws and regulations regarding the use of recreational drones. Drone users cannot fly their drone higher than 90 metres above the ground, closer than 75 metres from buildings, closer than nine kilometres from an airport, at night or in clouds, among other regulations. Any drone user who violates these new rules could face a fine up to $3,000.
Transport Canada is also encouraging airports, parks and municipalities that permit drones to post a ‘no drone zone’ sign, which can be printed out on the government of Canada’s website, around the perimeter of their property.
Canadian YouTuber Peter McKinnon teaches his over 350,000 subscribers of his channel about photography and cinematography. In one video, he says some of the new drone laws in Canada are “ridiculous” while others are “common sense”.
“I’m very much for flying drones safely and responsibly, but I’m also for the creative freedom of using it as a tool for filmmaking and vlogging and stuff like that.”
In January 2014 Business Insider Intelligence published a report predicting that the growing commercial drone industry will eventually become a multi-billion-dollar industry within the next ten years. The report predicts the consumer market to spend over $98 billion on drones over the decade.
It’s difficult to get an accurate estimate of drone sales due to the fact that a lot of drones are sold by private companies, but according to the Consumer Technology Association, roughly 2.8 million consumer drones were sold in the United States last year, which is double the amount of the previous year.
“We’re just scratching the surface of what UAVs will be used for,” says Vanderhoof.
Vanderhoof also says delivery gets the most attention in the drone industry, but precision agriculture and inspection industries are growing exponentionally.
“As the aircraft become more mature tech, it will be the sensors and payloads that will make the UAV market take off. We will continue to be amazed by the next new mission someone will come up with,” says Vanderhoof.
Sally French, better known as ‘The Drone Girl’, and founder of a site of the same name, first got interested in drones when she was a photographer and producer for the Drone Journalism program at the Missouri School of Journalism. In 2015, the journalist and public speaker was named one of Fortune Magazine’s top four women shaping the drone industry. She says comparing military drones and recreational drones is not fair.
“A military drone is 2,250 pounds with a 50-foot wingspan,” she says. “That’s nothing at all like the 3-pound, foot-long DJI Phantom that I’m talking about.”
She likens the evolution of the drone to that of the microwave.
“Microwaves were developed to transmit radar equipment during World War II, and it was later discovered they could actually cook food, which led to the creation of the modern microwave oven,” says The Drone Girl. “You don’t see people fearing microwaves the way they fear drones, okay well unless you’re Kellyanne Conway.”
The advancement of drones among mainstream society is undeniable. The first time most people probably heard of a recreational drone was probably within the last five or so years, which, in comparison to other popular technological items such as computers and cell phones, is fairly recent.
“Well just look the last Super Bowl. One of the stars of the half time show was a drone,” says Vanderhoof of drones’ newfound mainstream appeal. “Papa John’s Pizza (in the U.S.) delivers by drone.”
It’s not just the consumer market where drone-use is growing. Canada’s police forces are now using drones for their investigations. Halton Regional Police use a drone to search for missing persons. They also used their drone to investigate an armed robbery and homicide, and to assist officers find nearly a million dollars of marijuana growing on a farmer’s field back in 2012.
The York Regional Police also use drones. Their drones are used by traffic collision investigators to get a good view to map crash scenes. The traditional process of mapping and investigating a serious collision can take up to ten hours, but using a drone makes this process significantly faster.
Regardless of the use, how drones are viewed has changed in the minds of everyday citizens through the past few years.
“[When] we started the show, drones were always thought of as predator or reapers attacking some settlement in the Middle East, now we see them every day,” says Vanderhoof.
Right now, the word ‘drone’ is no longer associated with war, weapons or fear. Drones have been brought into a positive light where they are now one of the most attractive items in the world of technology.
Vanderhoof has a similar opinion: “People are becoming less frightened by the technology. Commercials and television shows all show UAVs, and it’s gone from a negative light to a positive light, and eventually they will be common place.”