Not Just a Toy: How Drones are Changing the World

Drones. They are one of the coolest gadgets to own. Recording aerial video and high definition photos can be a ton of fun. There are drone races and competitions across the country that enable you to show off your flying skills. Drones are more than just pricey toys, however. In many industries, drones are revolutionizing the way companies and organizations do business.

Parcel shipping

Online shopping is quickly becoming the preferred method for consumers to buy products. However, transit times, lost shipments and damaged packages can often be costly for companies as well as frustrating for customers. Companies like Amazon have recognized the issues inherent in land-based shipping, and have devised an ingenious solution. In many metro areas, big online companies have begun using drones to deliver packages.

Order online and a drone can drop your package off – often in less than an hour! The use of drones reduces the time it takes to get a package to your door, as well as the cost the ship the item. From small packages to time-sensitive documents, businesses are jumping on the bandwagon of using drones for delivery.

Can’t wait for that package? A drone just might show up at your door.


The military has been using drone technology for many years to carry out dangerous covert operations. However, local law enforcement and security companies are beginning to utilize drone technology for surveillance needs closer to home. Drones are especially useful when monitoring large estates or areas where access on foot or by vehicle is especially difficult.

Standard video surveillance is static. You can’t really move a stationary video camera around, see around corners or view large areas. A drone can give you a wide aerial view and transmit the video instantly to the operator. With immediate access to the drone video feed, law enforcement and security personnel can pinpoint any unusual activity in real-time.

From identifying would-be criminals to keeping property owners safe, using drones to keep an eye on things is a no-brainer.

Search and rescue

Police databases are unfortunately full of missing person cases. Often, search and rescue efforts are limited due to terrain and the number of personnel available to search. The use of drones greatly reduces both the cost and the difficulty of searching large areas for a missing person.

In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake, a drone can be a lifesaving tool. They can fly over places people can’t go, sending video back to the search and rescue team to let them know where the survivors are.

any first responders and emergency teams are implementing the use of drones for just this purpose – saving lives.

Research and mapping

Geographic mapping is exceptionally important for research of weather patterns, demographics, population trends and a variety of social issues. In the past, tracking changes in terrain, updating maps and pinpointing areas of concern was an expensive venture.

You either had to use costly satellite imagery or invest in flyovers using planes or helicopters. There was always the option of surveying the landscape manually – a process that takes a lot of time and manpower.

To gain insight on how drones are changing the face of geographic mapping and research, I spoke with Dr. Timothy Hawthorne, Assistant Professor of GIS at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Hawthorne has been using drones to collect data for use in state of the art geographic information systems.

When asked how drones have changed the way he collects data, he had this to say: “The affordability of drones, especially out of the box, ready to fly options makes them a disruptive technology. The affordability and ease of use opens up science and research possibilities.

Before the drone revolution we are experiencing, researchers either had to pay for expensive satellite imagery or aerial photography or use outdated, low-resolution free imagery. Many consumer-level drones now allow for sub-meter resolution. That’s incredibly powerful for researchers at a very low price point.”

Thanks to drone technology, we can greatly enrich the ability of geographers to collect large amounts of meaningful data in an easier, cheaper way.

Final thought

From shipping to surveillance, search and rescue to mapping, drones have opened the door to amazing innovations across the spectrum of industries. When your teenager asks for a drone for the holidays, don’t just think of it as an expensive toy – think of it as training for the workforce of tomorrow.


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