What’s that thing in the sky?

Is it a bird? A plane? A rocket?

No – it’s a drone.

From Wikipedia

Welcome to the world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV for short) or unmanned aerial systems (UAS – preferred by government).

A little scary, isn’t it? I mean look at that thing – it’s got a camera and can literally go anywhere.

Well, technically, not anywhere. The U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has applied several restrictions for hobby users and will consider commercial use of a drone on a case-by-case basis. There’s a lot of unknowns about regulation of drones at the moment, but one thing is for sure – people are using them.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending CalGIS 2015 in Sacramento, California. I went to one of the all-day preliminary sessions specifically on UAVs and UASs. Many UAV vendors were anxious to show off their wares and tell us all about what cool things their drones could do for both large and small business.

I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker.

Honestly, I want one. I’ve wanted one for a while now, ever since I saw this video:

I’m not a marine biologist, but like many of us, I am enamored with marine creatures and the footage above inspired me. Wouldn’t it be great if I could use a drone to inspect vegetation condition on a project or monitor potential wildlife habitat without disturbing the critters?

So, I’ve been on the look out for drones. I’ve been following their development and the FAA rulings, and when I saw there was a whole day of presentations just on drones at this year’s CalGIS, I knew I had to go.

I’m glad I did, because I found out three important things:

  1. There are here, folks. Commercially available drones can be bought and used today. Check out companies like 3DR.
  2. No one likes a drone invading their privacy.
  3. And safety cannot be overstated. Rest assured, you do not want to be the one to take down a small-engine plane when your drone gets sucked into their engine or propeller.

While I’m not quite ready to go out and buy one (yet), I will be approaching companies like GeoWing Mapping and Airphrame on how best I could start using UAV technology to provide my customers the most detailed and up-to-date map products available today.