Private Drones In American Skies

Drones on top of drones. New, commercial drones take off. Some say our skies will be dark with privately-owned drones.

A Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is seen flying during a demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Las Vegas. The drone has a built in camera and can be controlled with a smart phone. (AP)

A Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is seen flying during a demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Las Vegas. The drone has a built in camera and can be controlled with a smart phone. (AP)

Ok, so the “tacocopter” was a joke.  The drone that would deliver fresh tacos to you from the sky, wherever you stood, whenever you wanted them.  But drones are coming to American life.

The US military has gone wild for drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan.  American police departments are droning up.  But the big buzz now is in private drones.

Drones that can watch and check and grab and monitor.  For farmer’s fields.  Pipeline inspection.  Traffic watch.  Just looking around.  “Our skies will be dark with drones,” they say.

This hour, On Point:  beyond the military, the exploding age of drones.

-Tom Ashbrook



Chris Anderson, CEO of 3DRobotics and creator of Former editor-in-chief of Wired. (@chr1sa)

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU. (@jaycstanley)

Tom K. Kenville, chairman of the North Dakota chapter of the trade association, Unmanned Applications Institute, International — a non-profit that supports the development of unmanned aircraft.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Verge “How have things changed so fast? ’10 years ago, drones were military industrial technology, extremely expensive and some of it classified,’ says Anderson. ‘What happened over the last decade is that the revolution in your pocket, has made that technology so cheap, and easy, and ubiquitous that regular people could do it.'”

Reuters “As U.S. authorities grapple with how to regulate the use of unarmed drones in U.S. skies, a small network of police, first responders and experts is already flying unmanned aircraft. These operators say rapidly evolving drone technology is already reshaping disaster response, crime scene reconstruction, crisis management and tactical operations.”

The New York Times “The burst of activity in remotely operated planes stems from the confluence of two factors: electronics and communications gear has become dirt cheap, enabling the conversion of hobbyist radio-controlled planes into sophisticated platforms for surveillance, and the Federal Aviation Administration has been ordered by Congress to work out a way to integrate these aircraft into the national airspace by 2015.”


The GRASP lab at UPenn has been working with small quadrotor drones, and posting some impressive videos of what they can do.

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