Top 10 Current Uses of Drones

March 14, 2014

As we open our newspapers, it’s plain to see that the use of drones has become ever more ubiquitous in recent years. But what many people don’t realize, is that drones do much more than get real time surveillance for our soldiers and rain down freedom on the enemies of liberty. Not only are there many ideas for drone use in the future (Amazon delivery drones could be coming to a sky near) but thanks to a recent ruling overturning an FAA ban on the commercial use of drones, the doors are now open for some more innovative ideas to get off the ground (see what we did there?).

With that in mind, here is our list of the Top 10 Current Uses of Drones:

1. Beer Delivery –

Is there anything worse than running out of beer? If there is, it's running out of beer while in the middle of a frozen lake. To counter this horrible scourge, the folks over at Lakemaid Beer launched their own beer delivery drone earlier this year. While this was enthusiastically received by cold Minnesota ice-fishermen, the FAA was less happy, forcing them to shut down. (Check out a video of the drone here)

You can sign the petition to get them back in the air or move to South Africa where beer legally falls from the sky at music festivals. Either way, I can easily see Jon Taffer making this a must have in all future bars that aren't interested in embracing excuses.

2. TacoCopters –

One word: TacoCopter.

Arguably the best thing to happen to stoners since the invention of iTunes visualizations, TacoCopter offers tacos on demand, delivered to your location by drone. All you have to do is pull out your smartphone, place an order, and check the skies for your flying feast to arrive.What’s next for Tacocopter? Aside from expanding outside the SF Bay area and, you know, making this fully legal, their website alludes to their future venture: LobsterCopter for the “Taco of the East.” Just don’t start boiling your pots yet.

Hot on TacoCopter’s heels is the DomiCopter, which aims to bring piping hot pizza directly to your grumbling stomach by air. The creation of Dominos UK, this does seem like more of a headline grabber at this point rather than a genuine delivery option, but that hasn't tempered the enthusiasm for the idea. (Check out the DomiCopter here.)

3. Internet Drones –

Not content to simply dominate the internet and buy out any and all potential competition, Facebook is setting its sights on the 5 billion people who still don’t have internet access at all. The recent acquisition of Titan Aerospace will allow Facebook to cover large areas with wireless connectivity through the use of the Solara 50 and 60, solar-powered drones. These drones can stay aloft for up to 5 years, providing constant service for potentially billions of new customers. In order to side-step the FAA’s attempt at drone regulation entirely, these have been billed as atmospheric-satellites, and since they operate above 60,000 feet, they would not fall under the FAA ban that was recently overturned, should it be reinstated.

4. Dubai Delivery Drones –

Dubai is known in the West as a rich oasis, full of oil, sports cars, man-made islands, and gold dispensing vending machines. So when we first heard they were moving ahead with their own fleet of government drones, we couldn’t wait to learn what badass industry they would be used for. This lead to our tragic disappointment on learning they would just be used to deliver official government documents.

However, the fact that a real government, is using real drones on a large scale (beta testing for the next 6 months with plans to expand countywide within the year), is still pretty impressive. Add to that the fact that the drones are equipped with fingerprint and retina scanners to guard against fraudulent or inaccurate deliveries, and you have a really cool and practical system that fills a need citizens have. Those lucky Emiratis will soon be able to have the DMV come to them instead of the other way around. Sign me up!

5. Flying Musicians –

Think delivery boys are the only ones with their jobs on the chopping block? Think again. The University of Pennsylvania General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab has successfully used a fleet of tiny quadcopters to play a song. What song you ask? Why, the James Bond Theme Song of course. What else?

Ok, so it’s not going to be used as the score for the next 007 movie, but it’s still pretty impressive. Musicians can sleep safely… at least for now.

6. Gridlock Drone–

Renault is already at the forefront of using new technology in their vehicles as you can see from their EVs. So you just know that when they release a concept car like the Kwid, there’s going to be a little more to it that just having the driver positioned in the center. In addition to having an incredibly cool, modern design that makes it look almost like a Nike (in a good way), the Kwid comes with a drone they are calling the “flying companion.”

This drone will follow the car from above, giving real time updates about traffic and more, letting you know about potential delays before you hit them, or help you find a way out of one you’re already in. While it’s unclear whether this will ever be released to market, it at least gives us something to dream about while we’re stuck in traffic later today.

7. Poacher Hunters –

We all know Google’s unofficial motto is “Don’t be evil,” but it now looks like they are going to start enforcing it, and not in the way you’d think. With the number of rhinos poached in South Africa in January of 2014 already outnumbering the total killed in all of 2008(!), Google has stepped in to help end this terrible practice. As part of its Global Impact Award program, the tech giant has awarded a five million dollar grant to the World Wildlife Fund to expand its fleet of UAVs. These drones will help track poachers and discourage them from attempting to continue hunting rhinos, elephants, tigers, and more, to extinction in Asia and Africa.

Hopefully these new drones will help stem the tide of poaching and help us feel a little better that drones are being developed for purposes other than just bringing us food and beer without getting off our lazy asses.

8. Archeological Surveillance –

Drones aren’t just helping us protect our future; they are currently being used to help save the past as well. Researchers in Peru, Sicily, and Israel are using UAVs to survey large areas, getting a bird’s eye view of the territory they are studying. Not only does this allow them to create 3-D maps of the terrain, it can actually help them discover sites that might have gone unnoticed otherwise.

No word yet on whether Spielberg will have UAVs in the next Indiana Jones movie.

9. Undersea Drones –

You thought drones only flew in the sky? Think again.

The US Navy currently has a fleet of underwater “gliders” in use around the globe. Satellite and sea buoy data is extremely limited, so the Navy relies on these drones to get real-time information on everything from water temperature to salinity levels in critical areas. The drones may be slow, but they can swim for up to a full year at sea, giving our liberty dispatching SEALs unprecedented reach, while limiting risk. (Watch them in action here)

10. Space Drones –

It may not be the Millennium Falcon, but the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is helping NASA get to space without risking astronauts’ lives. While its most recent mission objectives were confidential, it is heartening to know that just because American manned-spaceflight is currently cancelled, we can at least still strive to boldly go where no robot has gone before.

Now all we need is DARPA to finish building its Transformer-style military drones to make it official that there is nowhere and nothing drones cannot do or get to. Maybe they’ll even be able to get Shia Labeouf to come back down to Earth.

Don’t see your favorite drone on the list? Post it in the comments section!