When you hear the word “drone,” a variety of connotations probably come to mind. We’ve all heard that drones have been used for good things and definitely some bad things, but drone technology has also been used for everything in between—whether that be to capture samples of fluid sprayed from the blowholes of whales or to fly Roman candle fireworks high in the sky to be shot off.
The LA Times recently published a story about one man, in particular, who is turning “drone” into a more common word and, perhaps, a household item. Frank Wang, CEO of Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), is making strides in the drone market, which is a new and rapidly-growing industry. DJI is a leading producer of drones, with a global workforce of over 3,000.
After graduating from the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology with a degree in electronics engineering, Wang and two friends moved to Shenzhen, China, where DJI headquarters is currently located. There, Wang and his friends dipped their toes and engineering minds into the drone waters and, with their success, are inspiring many other companies to do the same.
Drones in Business
According to a report published by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone, almost 3,000 United States businesses, universities, nonprofits and research groups are authorized to fly drones. And most of these drones, which are authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, are from the DJI Phantom series.
The DJI drones are used in multiple industries, including photography, real estate, construction, utilities/energy/infrastructure and agriculture. These industries are able to use drone technology to benefit their operations in various ways.
For the most part, they use drones to take photos, whether that’s for a small photography business or for aerial images realtors can use to sell houses. However, drones are also used for other purposes, such as precise applications of pesticides, water or fertilizer in the agriculture industry or fighting wildfires.
The diverse benefits that drone technology can provide have proved to be increasingly appealing to companies. As the regulations placed on drones becomes more relaxed, companies will have more opportunity to use them for profit.
Changing Regulations in 2016
We are currently in the midst of a major change in drone usage policy. Just last month, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a new rule: flying a drone for commercial purposes will not require a pilot’s license.
As the rules on drone usage relax, drones will become more normalized, especially in photography. Previously, to fly a commercial drone, operators were required to have both a pilot’s license and an FAA waiver. Now, according to the new regulations, anyone over age 16 can fly a commercial drone with a remote pilot certificate and a background check.
Colin Snow, a drone analyst at Skylogic Research told the LA Times that this new regulation “opens up the door for anyone that’s a photographer or videographer who wants to add drone photography to their bag of tricks.”
While this step towards normalizing drone usage within photography does begin to chip away at the negative stereotype drones have, these new regulations don’t necessarily address the main concern associated with drones: privacy.
Drone Technology and Privacy
Sarah Kreps, drone expert and professor of government at Cornell University, brought up an interesting point to the LA Times about the privacy-anxiety drones have caused.
“It’s like the [Transportation Security Administration] regulating travel: Everything is reactive…Shoes are fine to walk through security, until someone tries to hide a bomb in his shoes. Water was fine until someone tried to use it to detonate an explosive on an airplane. Everything is a countermeasure,” she said.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of Americans do not think it would be a positive change if “personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.”
Bottom line, people are concerned that drone technology is an invasion of privacy. Does that mean drone usage will always be seen as a negative? Perhaps not. President Obama has given the Commerce Department the green light to begin a conversation between industry and privacy groups to determine how to use drones in the safest, most productive way.
Drone technology is not something we can ignore. As more people and companies realize how helpful drones can be, the more prevalent they will become in modern, technologically advanced societies. It is apparent that for drone technology to be a means to enhance the way we already do things, we need educated people with good ideas to step up to the plate and prove that drones can be a platform for good.
Frank Wang started with an electronic engineering degree and continues to make leaps within the drone industry. If, one day, you want to say the same for yourself, consider starting with an online electronics engineering technology degree from Grantham University. You could be part of the movement to normalize drone technology as a way to safely improve society.