What was once a device exclusive to military operations, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have found their way into a variety of everyday consumer applications. UAVs have been around for more than a century and were initially developed for missions that were deemed too dangerous, dirty, or dull to send a piloted aircraft. Though unmanned missions can often result in the loss of the UAV, the number of lives it has saved in our military is immeasurable, and over the years, the technology continues to improve.
It wasn’t long before this cool technology found its way into the hands of the consumer. Now, UAVs can be found everywhere from wedding photography to backyards. About a year ago, I walked into a Toys R Us (obviously before they announced their closing) and was surprised to see a drone on sale for the delight of children. Though I was tempted to pick one up, I refrained, but the idea of using a drone for photos does appeal to me.
Amazon famously made its first drone deliver back in December 2016. Since then, its Prime Air service, which promises to deliver small packages that weigh less than 5 pounds in 30 minutes or less. Though the service is still in its testing phase, the web retail giant is taking strides to ensure that when it officially rolls out, it can be done executed safely. In fact, it was issued a patent in March of this year for UAVs that react to human gestures, such as screaming voices, flailing arms—so at least when drones become as ubiquitous as birds, we don’t have to worry about one flying into our faces.
UAVs are also being used in a number of commercial applications as discussed in this issue’s cover story, “Drone Make Inroads Into Industrial and Commercial Applications” by Scott Flower from Harwin, on p. 4. This article as examines the design of the aircraft and the demand from commercial applications like agriculture, construction, and oil and gas to make them more compact and cost effective.
Our first feature on p. 6, “Energy Storage Advances for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” by Maria Guerra, also focuses on drone technology and the process of optimizing energy storage with Lithium-sulfur batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. “WiFi Testing: Keeping Up with Internet Demands,” by Lincoln Lavoie from University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab on p. 10 discusses the importance of regularly testing the efficiency of WiFi service in the wake of our increasing number of internet connected devices.
Though drones aren’t quite as common as some of our other devices, the consumer and commercial markets are definitely growing the demand for the technology to hit the mainstream.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense