According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the newest generation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is set to take over many personal uses. From paparazzi spying on celebrities and private investigators to parents, potential UAV uses are limited only by the imagination.
While UAVs are common place in the military, and the typical picture of a UAV is the missile wielding predator, the subjects of this article are a bit more mundane. The civilian UAV market is set to see rapid expansion beyond simple remote control toys. An early example of a civilian UAV is the Parrot AR.Drone, the small four-bladed helicopter that is controlled via iPhone over a wireless network. The Parrot drone features two cameras and can potentially fly at altitudes up to 160 feet, but beyond beaming back video or simulating combat, its uses are relatively limited by its small size.
That’s where some of the new UAV projects come in. They utilize new technologies to create lighter more capable aircraft that can take on more advanced roles such as MIT’s “personal sentry” which they are developing for potential military uses. The drone works similarly to the Parrot AR.Drone, but features a set of sensors designed to detect enemy combatants and notify the operator. Such a device could be used just as effectively by parents tracking a stray toddler.
When considering the future, not much can be certain, but one thing is assured – the need for qualified UAV operators is only going to increase as these aircraft begin to see civilian use. While current FAA regulations create a huge gray area, only limiting civilian drones to altitudes less than 400 feet agl and barring them from airports, it is likely that new regulations will be created to deal with potential safety concerns.