Before the Wright Brothers and other innovators of flight, man always had a desire to fly. Now the question is, why should I fly or pay someone to fly when I can have my drone do it? Known also as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or just simply as drones the uses and potential uses for unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) are growing in number and predicted to be one of the next big technology booms. Until recently, UASs were thought to be relevant only to the military. Now, many are considering using UASs for private commercial use in a variety of industries and also for public use such as for law enforcement.
A UAS is an aircraft capable of completing a flight path without a human pilot on board the aircraft. UAS flight may be controlled via an autonomous onboard computer or via a remote control mechanism in wireless communication with, and in control of, the UAS.
Recently, the potential uses for UASs have increased, so much so that some have compared this period for UASs with the period when potential commercial uses for the internet were first being considered. Most famously, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced plans in December 2013 for Amazon to develop a shipping system where its products can be delivered to consumers via UASs.
Yet other commercial uses are being considered or applied. For example, drones were used in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to record events from an aerial perspective previously unattainable by using traditional video camera techniques. Drones may further be utilized to safely fight fires, measure and observe meteorological functions and events, or survey land.
Perhaps one of the most transformative applications of UAS technology is in the agricultural industry. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the trade group that represents drone users and producers, predicts that as much as 80% of the commercial market for UASs will be in the agricultural industry. UASs may help farmers to survey their land and collect information regarding crops. For example, by taking an aerial survey of their land, farmers can use the data to determine which crops are healthy, which crop regions need more or less pesticide from year to year, and other critical determinations that influence the methods they use to farm. UASs can also be used for delivery of crop treatments that is traditionally performed with manned aircraft. Given how enormous the agricultural industry is in the United States, UAS technology has the potential to transform agriculture.