ONCE THOUGHT OF AS A NICHE TOY for early adopters, drones can now be found buzzing over parks, in select cities, and are even being increasingly used for video production as the popularity of aerial photography soars. However, drones aren't only for fun and entertainment, and the high-pitched hum of their spinning propellers could replace the wail of ambulance sirens for global citizens as drones are put to work for humanitarian purposes. In March of 2017, DJI, the manufacturers of the most popular commercial drones, published a report about drones' life-saving capabilities, citing cases in which drones manned by volunteers or bystanders were used in emergency situations like floods and avalanches, resulting in 59 life-saving rescues in China, Canada, the U.S., and Turkey. Given that it takes 25 people 35 hours to search one square mile for missing persons, compared to the 30 minutes it takes a drone to cover the same area, regardless of treacherous conditions on the ground, drones are uniquely suited for search and rescue, even when piloted by hobbyists. Based on the increasing trend of drone use in the last 10 months covered by the report, DJI estimated that drones would be directly responsible for saving at least one person per week in the future.
Late last year, we wrote about how Australia was paying a stupendous amount of money to try using drones and artificial intelligence to detect sharks off of popular beaches. We were skeptical, mostly because it's hard to make a convincing argument that shark attacks are actually that big of a problem, in Australia or anywhere else, compared to other, bigger problems that we might want to address first.
Children could be banned from owning drones weighing more than 250g as part of a proposed crackdown on misuse. They would only be allowed to fly devices heavier than that if they were owned and registered by an adult. The Department for Transport says drones weighing more than 400g can smash a helicopter windscreen, while those over 2kg can damage airliners. Other measures being considered to tackle irresponsible use include £300-on-the-spot fines and confiscation. Responses to the consultation will feed into a draft Drones Bill, expected later this year.