Ever since UAV development picked up speed a few years ago, people have been trying to make drones smarter and smarter. The co-founder of 3D Robotics, Jordi Munoz, famously used the motion sensors in his Nintendo Wii-mote to come up with an autonomous UAV. Since then, many more companies have emerged that have focused their
Ever since UAV development picked up speed a few years ago, people have been trying to make drones smarter and smarter. The co-founder of 3D Robotics, Jordi Munoz, famously used the motion sensors in his Nintendo Wii-mote to come up with an autonomous UAV. Since then, many more companies have emerged that have focused their UAV development specifically on smart drones.
A smart drone is one that has intelligent features to enable it to perform independent actions without user control. An example of such a feature is a follow me mode found in the upcoming drones such as the DJI Phantom 3 which enables the drone to follow the desired person without any need for guidance. Another smart feature is the selfie mode found in the 3DR Solo which can automatically take off, snap an aerial selfie of a person and then return.
Drones with these smart features are undoubtedly the future of drones. This is because the main barrier to getting into drone flying as a hobby has always been the learning curve and practice required for controlling a UAV. As smart drones continue to develop, users may no longer need to learn to fly manually in order to capture high-quality aerial videos. The demand for people who can produce such videos is only likely to go up due to the increased presence of social media in our lives and the use of drones in the entertainment industry. Provided the ease with which smart drones can be operated, such products will likely create a huge demand surge in the following years.
There are some striking similarities between the development histories of drones and smartphones. The introductory years of smartphones were dominated by high-tech gadgets that required a knowledgeable person to operate, and so their target audience was quite limited.
The same is true with UAVs in the sense that in their initial years, only the hardcore hobbyists or professionals could operate them in order to obtain aerial video. However, the smartphone landscape changed with the iPhone as it brought ease of use of smartphones to the masses and demand for them surged from thereon. With the continued development of smart drones, ready-to-fly solutions such as the Parrot Bebop will really gain popularity.
Another avenue where smart drones will be highly profitable is the automation industry. Currently, all drone designs require an operator for continuous operation, which is contrary to the aims of automation. If smart drones that can complete tasks without any sort of supervision are developed, the industrial demand for such drones will likely explode.
A simple scenario where automation could occur is a warehouse where stocking items requires tedious manual labor, as is the current scenario in the warehouses belonging to Amazon.com. If there were drones available which could move the stocked items around on their own, with multiple units working simultaneously and charging themselves without supervision, there would be no need for manual labor and the costs could decrease substantially.
Several companies including 3D Robotics and Parrot have already started investing heavily in smart drones. It helps that the upcoming FAA regulations are looking to be positive towards commercial drone operators.
What about you? Are you creating a smart drone software package or UAV design that will allow for greater automation and improve user interfaces? We want to know about them. Leave a comment or contact us to get interviewed about your idea!
Image via Flickr: Intel Free Press