The 17 best drone videos that gave a whole new perspective to 2014

Quadcopters with cameras got better and cheaper, turning more people into drone hobbyists and professional aerial videographers. Drones were used for cityscapes, nature walks, concerts, real estate listings,disaster surveys, Olympic sports—even self-portraiture, as selfies taken from the air became known as “dronies.”

With so many drone videos out there, picking the best of the year is a difficult task. To make our list, a video had to distinguish itself with a creative location, approach, or circumstance. Some drone videographers just got lucky (or unlucky, as the case may be). Others brought particular skill to an unusual place.

The popularity of drone videos can be partially explained, yes, by their novelty. (And their newfound ubiquity inevitably gave rise to complaints.) But at their best, drones provide a compelling vantage that captivates viewers and point in a new and creative direction for journalism and cinematography.

The following were the best drone videos released in 2014.

An illicit view of Beijing

Drones aren’t allowed to fly over many parts of Beijing, least of all the Forbidden City. The photographer who took this video, Trey Ratcliff, was detained by police after he flew close to government buildings. Fortunately, he was allowed to keep the footage he shot over five days and offer the world this rare perspective on Beijing.

A rockfall in northern Italy

A cliff collapsed at the beginning of the year in the small town of Tramin (also known as Termeno) in South Tyrol, Italy, sending boulders and small rocks tumbling through fields—and, in one case, straight through a 300-year-old barn. This drone footage surveyed the surreal damage in an attempt to raise money for relief efforts.

An abandoned city near Chernobyl

Pripyat, Ukraine, was evacuated in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown. Danny Cooke shot this video while visiting for the CBS TV news program 60 Minutes, which produced a segmentabout the continuing effects of radiation in the area. What Cooke found was a city frozen in time and left to decay but still displaying its humanity.

Fireworks on the beach in Florida

“The quad was not damaged,” said Jos Stiglingh, who sent his quadcopter into the middle of an extravagant fireworks display in West Palm Beach, Florida. The resulting footage offers a perspective on a pyrotechnics show that’s usually seen from a much safer distance.

Taking to the streets of Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Umbrella movement seemed to catch everyone off guard, from its student leaders to the Chinese government. The scope of the protests wasn’t clear at first, but this video, shot by Nero Chan, helped make it clear to the rest of the world. He posted it to Facebook with the status: “feeling hopeful.”

Skimming the waves on a Thai island

Philip Bloom took his gear to Koh Yao Noi, Thailand, an island off the coast of Phuket, and shot an enchanting video that’s most notable for how close to the ground the drone hovers.

Whale watching in Hawaii

This video makes clear that we’ve been looking at the sea from the wrong vantage. Eric Sterman captured the footage off the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. And here’s some bonus footage of whales and dolphins in Hawaii and California, by Dave Anderson:

Into a volcano in the South Pacific

Shaun O’Callaghan sent his drone straight into Mount Yasur—a volcano on the island of Tanna, part of the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu—which has been erupting almost continuously for eight centuries. Amazingly, the drone returned safely with spectacular footage.

Burning Man from the air

Would it really even be Burning Man if it weren’t meticulously documented by a drone? (Regulations were tightened after drones filled the sky above Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 2013.) This video of the festival was shot by Eric Cheng, who occasionally streamed the footage live to the burners below.

High, high above Dubai

The macho-cool thing to do with your drone this year was take it to Dubai and fly to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. For a taste of how ridiculous this can get, see this video. But for a truly great drone video from Dubai, watch the one above, shot by Team BlackSheep.

A music video in Los Angeles

Drone videos are awesome—if you keep them on mute. Even the ones on this list are best viewed without listening to their maudlin or otherwise terrible background music. Which is why this music video, for a song by DJ Dodger Stadium, is so notable: It’s a great drone video that evokes the noirish urban delights on Los Angeles, and the song is pretty good, too.

A music video in Japan

The indie rock band OK Go combined Honda unicycles, umbrella-twirling schoolgirls, and Busby Berkeley-style dance movies—andcaptured the entire spectacle on a drone camera that starts in close, inside a building, and ends the video by zooming thousands of feet into the air.

Above the clouds in the Netherlands

The Dom Tower in Utrecht is the tallest church in the Netherlands—tall enough to peek out even when the rest of the city is blanketed in clouds. The unnamed shooter of this video waited 10 months for the right weather conditions.

Up close in the arctic—while it still exists

You try manipulating a quadcopter at the top of the world. “I had the drone adopt unusual attitudes and go partially out of control,” reports Peter Cox, the arctic explorer who shot this video.

Apple’s new headquarters in progress

The new corporate headquarters that Apple is building in Cupertino, California, has been likened to a spaceship. So it’s appropriate that several people took to the air this year to document progress on the building’s construction. The video above was shot by Jason McMinn in August. (And here’s another one from October.)

Not-quite-a-drone bonus: An eagle over Paris

Birds have long enjoyed the kind of perspective that makes drone videos so amazing to behold. So it’s appropriate that the last video on our list was shot with a decidedly low-tech eagle soaring high above Paris.

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FPV Flying Rules in Australia

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority, or CASA, looks after flying machines above our heads all around the nation. As a result, it’s also responsible for looking after the safe use of drones in Australia.
CASA breaks down drone operations into two different categories: commercial and civil/hobbyist use, with different rules for each.

Commercial Use

The CASA defines the commercial use of a drone as anything you’re doing relating to business operations. For example, if you’re a production company strapping a camera to a drone for the purposes of gathering footage, or if you’re flying something into the air to test it via a drone.
Before you can even get a drone remote in your hands for commercial purposes, CASA requires that pilots undergo a certification process in order to get an Operator’s Certificate. That demonstrates that you can not only fly a drone safely, but also that you’re aware of rules and regulations relating to drone flights in Australia.
The regulations don’t stop there, either: for any drone flights, commercial operators need explicit approval from CASA before you can even leave the ground with your flying machine.
That approval involves filing several important documents with the regulator, including a flight plan and copies of your certifications.
If a commercial entity is caught operating a drone without any of these things, the flight feds will can come down on you. Hard.
For starters, they can revoke a a commercial entity’s Operator’s Certificate, which is kind of like having your driver’s license suspended as a cab driver. It’s all bad. Drone operators can re-apply for their Operator’s Certificate, but that request goes through the CASA which has the power to refuse or place conditions on any new permit.
The CASA can also consider the use of infringement notices or criminal charges for commercial operators if offences are serious enough.

Civil/Hobby Use

The hottest DJI phantom 2 RTF is sold at $575
For drone operators looking to do a bit of skylarking with their quadcopters, the rules from CASA aren’t anywhere near as serious. Private operators don’t need approval from CASA before taking flight with their drones, but there are some rules that need to be respected.
The rules are simple:
• Stay at least 30 metres away from people with your drone.
• Keep your drone under 400 feet (121.92m).
• You may not operate your drone above a large gathering of people (i.e.: at sporting events, over crowds at the beach or groups of protestors)
• You must keep your drone within sight while you’re operating it.
• You may not operate your drone within 5km of an airport and a place where planes take off or land from.
If you violate these rules, CASA can take action against you in the form of infringement notices (read: fines) up to $8,500 per offence. If you put people at risk or seriously injure someone, the penalties are far more serious and will be dealt with on a case by case basis.
For example, a private drone operator was allegedly using a quadcopter above a marathon race earlier in the year. The drone reportedly failed and struck a woman in the head causing serious injury.
The CASA told us today that the case is currently before the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to see whether or not criminal charges will be laid against the operator.

Make a Ghost Drone for Your Halloween


YouTube user Alton Porter put a sheet over his drone to make it look like this:

ghost drone
ghost drone

And then used it to terrify trick-or-treaters:

Comedian Tom Mabe had a similar idea, except he decided to target adults instead of children.

Interestingly, the results were similar:

Finally, we have the Ghost drone. Rather than a quadcopter draped with a sheet or sporting a terrifying porch decoration, this quadcopter isn’t as scary as it is legitimately innovative.

Developer EHang says the Ghost is the world’s easiest drone to fly- and this claim might actually hold water because users don’t truly pilot it. The Ghost is controlled by GPS waypoints rather than a traditional controller. So instead of steering right or left, you use your smartphone to tap locations on a map and the Ghost follows your selected flight plan.

Check out the Ghost introduction video:

Get ready for ‘Drone Nation’

Photograph by Stephen Lewis for Fortune

In demand by Fortune 500 companies and heavily funded by Silicon Valley, unmanned aircraft are rapidly invading the world of business.

We’re taking the drone out for a spin. It’s a sun-drenched Friday in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood, and though it’s late afternoon the wind hasn’t picked up. Perfect flying conditions. T.J. Johnson, 29, co-founder and chief engineer of a local consumer drone startup called AirDroids, kneels on the untrimmed grass in the middle of a city park. He unzips a small black carrying case no bigger than a regulation football and extracts an almost-final version of his company’s sole product.

The Pocket Drone—a collapsible, three-rotor aerial vehicle—folds up small enough to fit in a backpack easily, but its three independent propeller motors are powerful enough to carry a GoPro camera. Johnson and his partners think it could be the first in a huge, new category of personal electronics—the small, easily portable flying robot that goes everywhere with you to capture overhead imagery on demand.

In a few swift motions, Johnson snaps the rotors into place and connects the battery. Stepping back a few paces to give the machine clear passage to the airspace above, he taps in some guidance “waypoints” onto the satellite image of the park displayed on his Android tablet. Then he gives the command to fly. The propellers whir to life, and the drone zips into the air with startling speed, hovering for just a moment directly overhead before streaking off to autonomously execute its flight plan. As we watch it soar, we’re updated on the drone’s progress via a female robotic voice emanating from Johnson’s tablet: “Waypoint one … waypoint two …”

Johnson’s company has achieved liftoff almost as quickly as his invention. Along with co-founders Timothy Reuter, 37, and Chance Roth, 40, Johnson developed a rough prototype of the Pocket Drone and put it on Kickstarter in January. The partners were hoping to raise $35,000. But they ended up getting $929,212 in just 60 days to produce roughly 1,800 drones. Pre-orders on the AirDroids site have pushed sales still higher, to some $1.2 million. “To do a million? We felt like we really had something here, but we were definitely surprised,” says Johnson, an engineering major in college who has a day job as an intellectual-property attorney. “None of us were expecting that kind of demand.”

Air Droid's T.J .JohnsonAirDroids co-founder T.J. Johnson flying the company’s Pocket Drone. The Indianapolis startup has already received $1.2 million in orders for its compact UAVPhotograph by A.J. Mast for Fortune

AirDroids is just the tip of the propeller. Think of this as a Model T moment—when a new industry finds its commercial footing, and thereafter the world is never the same. The idea of unmanned aircraft as consumer devices or commercial tools is a relatively new one in the U.S. Drones, as they are more commonly known, own a place in the American public consciousness right next to the war on terrorism and America’s shadow conflicts in places like Pakistan and Yemen. Predator and Reaper drones—the hulking, matte-gray unmanned aircraft now synonymous with “drone strikes”—have loitered in foreign skies for decades. But five years ago consumer drones didn’t exist. Even two years ago, low-cost and easy-to-use commercial drones were largely the subject of futurism. Today the business world is on the verge of being swarmed by unmanned aircraft.

The global market for nonmilitary drones has already ballooned into a $2.5 billion industry, one that’s growing 15% to 20% annually. And that’s under the current law. One of the biggest potential markets for commercial drones—the U.S.—isn’t even open for business yet. At least not officially. While the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for commercial purposes is soaring in countries like Japan, Australia, France, and the U.K., the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has yet to institute regulations governing the operation of commercial drones, and in the meantime it has issued a blanket ban prohibiting their use in nearly all endeavors. Further complicating things is the gray area in defining the difference between “recreational” drones (which aren’t restricted by the FAA) and commercial drones (which are). In September the FAA issued exceptions to six film companies to use drones, and it has approved their use to monitor oil operations in Alaska. Regulators aren’t expected to issue a full set of guidelines for at least another year.

DRO-10.27.14Chart Source: Frost & Sullivan

But the buildout of the drone industry is racing along even as Washington dithers. Everyone from Fortune 500 companies to venture capitalists to startups is pouring vast amounts of money into the technology. Amazon, Google, and German shipping giant DHL have made headlines by experimenting with drones for deliveries. Facebook says it is developing a drone the size of a 747 that could fly for months at a time, beaming down wireless signals. Meanwhile, unmanned aircraft have already begun to gain traction in big businesses, ranging from agriculture to mining (see box below on “Five Industries Where Drones Are Taking Off”). The industry has even recently retained a Washington, D.C., lobbyist—funded in part by Google and Amazon—to make the case for drones on Capitol Hill. So, strictly legal or not, America’s drone revolution is already well underway. The question is not whether drones will have a real impact someday. Rather it’s, Which businesses will be the most disrupted? And which entrepreneurs and investors will make the biggest windfalls in the process?

Mark Heynen wants to make one thing perfectly clear: “We’re a data company, not a drone company,” he declares moments after we meet.

Heynen is the senior vice president of client operations for San Francisco commercial-drone startup Skycatch, a company whose business model is based on the manufacture and sale of drone hardware and software to commercial customers. So in that sense, his comment may seem counterintuitive. But it’s a refrain I heard repeatedly over several days while exploring the Bay Area’s burgeoning drone corridor.

Over the past 18 months, a host of drone startups have sprung up amid the region’s more traditional software companies. Many, like Skycatch, have recently closed major funding rounds and are starting to take on the sheen of proper Silicon Valley tech startups, moving into modern, open workspaces accented with reclaimed wood and high, exposed ceilings beneath which platoons of twenty-something coders perched at adjustable sitting/standing desks hammer away at their keyboards.

This UAV boom in the heart of techland makes a lot of sense once you realize that America’s drone industry is tied up inextricably with the ongoing explosions in data analytics and the so-called Internet of things—areas that Silicon Valley and the larger technology sector have a vested interest in developing. “For us, this is just another increase in step function in the sources of information we can work with,” says Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of enterprise cloud company Box, of the proliferation of commercial drones. “Where will the next trillion files be created? Broadly: the Internet of things. But UAVs in particular are going to be a massive source of that information.”

Air Droid Pocket DroneThe rotors of a Pocket Drone prototype by AirDroids fold up for easy storage.Photograph by Stephen Lewis for Fortune

Drones have the unique ability to fly lower than manned aircraft and higher than cranes and other ground-based vehicles can reach. They offer everyone from film producers to civil engineers to open-air mining operations to individual photographers a wholly new perspective on the world below. Using multispectral sensors, they can capture data impossible for the human eye to see—like gas leaking from a pipeline and food crops suffering from lack of nitrogen—faster and at greater volume than has ever been possible in the past. Tapping into the ever-increasing power of the cloud, they can quickly produce high-resolution 3-D maps of vast geographic areas. It’s the data that many companies are after. Drones are just the means of getting it. “If we could get this data some other way, we would,” says Curt Smith, technology director for the information technology and systems office at BP, one of the only companies currently cleared by the FAA to use drones for commercial purposes in the U.S. “We do this because it allows us to do things that we couldn’t do before.”

Skycatch founder and CEO Christian Sanz launched his company last year after he spent two weeks using a drone he had built himself to shoot aerial photographs of a construction site. Sanz had approached the builders hoping to make a business case for drone photography, and it turned out they had a voracious appetite for images to track the project’s progress. Sanz walked away overwhelmed by the demand for affordable, high-quality aerial images. “Two weeks into it I couldn’t keep up,” says Sanz, chuckling at the memory. “I was disappointing people, and I was doing it for free.”

He decided to build a company around the idea of automating the process. So Sanz developed an industrial system that includes GPS-guided drones to capture imagery and automated ground stations that can charge and swap the drones’ batteries between flights. By the end of 2013, Skycatch had 10 clients buying the units at $100,000 apiece. The company closed a $13 million funding round in May—investors include Google ­Ventures—and Sanz says he is already working on a far more substantial Series B round.

Skycatch’s customers include construction industry giants like Clayco, DPR, Bechtel, and France’s Bouygues. But it also quickly found data-hungry customers in other industries such as mining (Rio Tinto) and energy (Chevron, First Solar) who are eager to exploit efficiencies made possible by regular and accessible overhead imagery and 3-D mapping. Skycatch says that it’s doubling the number of systems it sells each month. Drones are no longer just an experimental extravagance to many enterprises; increasingly they’re viewed as an operational necessity.

“There’s an ongoing shift from a focus on cost to a focus on the value of data,” says Jonathan Downey, founder and CEO of Airware, another San Francisco–based drone technology startup. Downey started Airware in 2011 to develop what amounts to a common operating system for drones—a set of software tools interfacing with an ecosystem of sensors that can be installed to make any unmanned aircraft interface-friendly with other drones within a company’s fleet.

“There’s this gray area with the rules,” says one entrepreneur. “But people are going ahead and using these things.”

Like Skycatch, Airware has gained a lot of momentum over the past year, raising $11.7 million in Series A funding in 2013 from backers including Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures and an additional $25 million in July. Also like Skycatch, Airware just moved into nice new digs in San Francisco’s SoMA neighborhood. And Airware also works with customers to apply drone technology to commercial ends. Which means, like Skycatch and almost every other company trying to develop the commercial-drone industry, Airware has a problem. As Downey says: “A [U.S.] customer can’t buy our product today and be legally compliant.”

Free Flight X8 Hign-end Quadcopter from FPV Model

In the 2012 FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act, Congress gave the FAA a mandate: Develop a process for integrating small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace as well as a set of regulations to govern their use. The FAA plans to release a proposed set of rules by the end of this year, and after a period of review by industry and lawmakers the agency will issue finalized regulations sometime in the second half of next year. Drone makers are obviously eager for a resolution. Meanwhile, because the FAA lacks the manpower to police the entire national airspace at all times, many companies get away with flying their commercial drones until someone brings it to the agency’s attention, at which point a cease-and-desist letter goes out.

Over the past year the status quo has changed somewhat as money and commercial interests have aligned themselves behind the commercial-drone business. In August consumer-drone makers DJI, 3D Robotics, and Parrot teamed up with Amazon to form the Small UAV Coalition, hiring D.C. lobbying group Akin Gump to represent the industry on Capitol Hill (Airware, GoPro, and GoogleX have since joined the group). Elsewhere in Washington, D.C., a consortium of institutional investors and aerospace companies has assembled a $2.2 billion fund to invest in infrastructure critical to the safe integration of commercial drones into the national airspace and to advocate for commercial drones. The UAS America Fund, as the group is known, has already filed a lawsuit challenging the FAA’s blanket ban on small commercial drones with the hopes of creating some legal headroom for companies that simply want to conduct small-drone R&D flights while the FAA works on its broader regulations.

3D Robotics IRIS+

Looking down on the IRIS+ drone Photograph by Stephen Lewis for Fortune

“The big paradox is that this is all about safety, but in order to make this safe, companies have to test,” says Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition and senior policy adviser at Akin Gump in Washington, D.C.  “We don’t want to cede the opportunities to other nations when we have such a base of companies and innovators that are already at the cutting edge in this space. Let’s move forward responsibly, but let’s move forward.”

We can solve most of these problems with technology,” Jono Millin says of the FAA’s safety concerns. “We personally have the capability to solve so many of their problems.”

From a hill overlooking an expanse of salt flats in Menlo Park, Calif., Millin can see the future of commercial drones. Drones of all stripes will be extremely easy to use, he believes. They’ll be accessible from anywhere, no matter where they are flying. They’ll be extremely safe; both the authorities and the companies that specialize in helping their customers deploy their drones will be able to monitor what drones are doing in real time. And absolutely everyone will use them. No one will be able to afford not to.

Millin is the 28-year-old co-founder and chief of product at DroneDeploy, and along with co-founder Nick Pilkington he’s brought me to the very heart of Silicon Valley—Facebook’s sprawling headquarters are visible on the far side of the cracked, chalk-white flats—to see this future in action. The company flies almost weekly, Millin says, typically to give the team back in the office the chance to debug software and address issues brought up by the company’s two-dozen beta customers scattered across 10 U.S. states.

Those customers are mostly companies trying to figure out how best to integrate drone technology into their operations, Millin says. Nobody wants to be left behind. “People are going ahead and doing this,” he says. “There’s this gray area with the rules—and it is a messy gray area—but people are going ahead and using these things.”

With just nine full-time employees, DroneDeploy is still in its lean-and-scrappy phase. Its three founders launched the company out of a shared one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Its current office more closely resembles a loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn, than the flashy, polished workspaces that dot the surrounding area. There’s no reclaimed wood to be seen, no brightly painted conference rooms full of beanbag chairs, nothing in the way of Silicon Valley swagger—just a group of twenty-somethings intensely focused on their computer screens.

Data provided by drones is transforming industries across the spectrum, often in surprising ways.

BP Drone in Alaska

A worker for BP using a drone to image and map oilfields near Prudhoe Bay, AlaskaPhoto courtesy of AeroVironment

Unmanned aircraft have long promised to provide critical information and unlock efficiencies across industries, but we’re only beginning to see just how large an impact that data can have as companies find new and often unexpected applications for drone technology. “This usually starts when people perceive the benefit of not hiring an aircraft for something,” says Mark Heynen, senior vice president of client operations at commercial-drone maker Skycatch. “But it quickly trickles into other places.” —C.D

Agriculture: / New sensors and data analytics are taking precision agriculture beyond simply monitoring crops for stress. Imagine farmers boosting crop yields by optimizing the fertilizer mix for different parts of a field, or wine­makers precisely controlling drip irrigation down to the individual vine.

Construction: / On large-scale construction sites it can be extremely difficult for contractors to get the big picture. Drones make it simple for construction giants like Bechtel and DPR to monitor progress and supply stockpiles on a day-to-day basis.

Energy: / The energy industry uses drones for applications far beyond pipeline and flare stack inspection. In Alaska, BP uses drones to monitor its gravel-extraction activities to stay within environmental guidelines.ConocoPhillips has used unmanned aircraft in the Arctic, and Chevronhas experimented with them as well. First Solar employs drones regularly to inspect for faulty solar panels.

Mining: / Mining giants like Rio Tinto are reducing risk to their human workforce by using drone technology to detect potential landslides and inspect safety infrastructure, as well as to keep a more accurate eye on how much mineral it extracts.

Film and Television: / Several American TV and film production companies recently received FAA clearance to fly ­camera-equipped drones in U.S. airspace, offering major Hollywood studios such as 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. the opportunity to leverage this technology on home soil—something they’ve done for years in other countries. Drone technology will bring much of that overseas shooting back to the U.S.

Millin, Pilkington, and CEO and co-founder Mike Winn attended high school together in their native South Africa and were scattered around various cities in the U.K. in mid-2012 when they decided that a long-simmering idea they’d shared had finally come into its time. “If we tried to build DroneDeploy five years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Winn says. Now it appears that the timing couldn’t be better.

Winn left a job building sales tools at Google while Millin and Pilkington—pursuing doctorates at the University of Edinburgh and Cambridge, respectively—abandoned their studies to develop a piece of hardware roughly the size of a deck of cards. Called a CoPilot, it’s essentially a 4G/LTE wireless modem that interfaces with a drone’s onboard systems, feeding data to the autopilot and offloading images and other data from the drone’s sensors via existing wireless networks.

The big idea can be summed up in three words: drones as phones. By routing the control system for drones over the existing wireless communications infrastructure, DroneDeploy’s technology eliminates the need for unwieldy ground stations for downloading data, say the founders. Data go directly to the cloud for processing, users can access drones from anywhere, and companies can scale their drone operations using Verizon or AT&T’s infrastructure instead of buying or building their own.

Integrating drones into existing communications infrastructure is what allows Millin, Pilkington, and me to stand around eating salted almonds while a white, Styrofoam-body airframe loops back and forth across the sky overhead. Before sending the aircraft skyward, Millin dialed in the flight path from his smartphone. But twice during the half-hour flight one of the company’s programmers back in the office sends us a text to let us know he’s making small adjustments via DroneDeploy’s dashboard software. The whole office is watching this flight and the data streaming directly from aircraft to cloud, Millin says; technically we’re there only to launch and recover the drone itself.

This kind of simplicity is what will make commercial drones safe, Millin says. It would be simple enough to beam our flight plan to the FAA for approval and check it against a database of other flight plans or restricted airspace in the area. This type of automation is also what should pave the way for drones to penetrate all kinds of enterprises. While we’re having a snack, the robot is compiling 10 acres’ worth of high-resolution mapping data, and depending on what’s being mapped, that data can be extremely valuable.

The high value of data continues to drive companies toward drone technologies, but the FAA’s ban on commercial-drone use means that much of the rush toward drone adoption is happening in the shadows. Airware’s Downey has plenty to say about his company’s customers in Australia, France, and elsewhere in Europe, but on the subject of potential U.S. clientele he simply notes that the company is focused internationally. DroneDeploy’s founders openly admit that they have users across the U.S.—companies that are experimenting with commercial-use cases for UAS technologies if not using them for direct commercial gain—but the company is not saying who those customers are. Skycatch provides technology to some of the most recognizable global brands in open-air mining, construction, and energy, and Sanz is candid about the fact that his company’s technology is deployed regularly by companies right in the Bay Area, but he won’t go into specifics.

“Where will the next trillion files be created?” says Box CEO Aaron Levie. “[Drones] are going to be a massive source of that information.”

Many of those companies won’t have to fly under the radar much longer. As the FAA has scrambled to deal with both the proliferation of small-drone technology and pressure from various industries and interest groups to relax its commercial-drone ban, the agency has devised a mechanism that allows it to exempt specific companies and aircraft from its own rules. The first so-called Section 333 exemption was granted earlier this year when BP was given permission to fly one single kind of drone aircraft system for commer­cial purposes in the airspace over Prudhoe Bay, on Alaska’s northern, Arctic shore—an exemption far too narrow in scope to really move the needle for the larger drone industry.

But in late September the FAA gave out a second exemption under Section 333, this time granting a consortium of film and television production companies permission to use a number of different drone platforms across the TV and film industries. Aside from being the first move by the FAA to open up commercial-drone use across an entire industry, it established a process within the FAA for evaluating and implementing exemptions for companies that can prove that their drone operations are safe and reliable. That bodes well for drone entrepreneurs. More than a dozen industries—ranging from construction to agriculture to energy to electric utilities—have Section 333 requests waiting in the FAA’s pipeline, many of which are due for review before the end of the year.

Some drone makers are simply avoiding legal issues by exploiting demand for recreational drones, which remain largely unregulated by the FAA. Hong Kong–based DJI claims to own a full 50% of the recreational market, selling 30,000 or more of its now ubiquitous Phantom quadrotor drones every month. If DJI’s claims are true, that values the consumer drone market at roughly $800 million, though some in the industry value it as high as $1 billion (the disparity arises from what one considers a “consumer drone” product).

Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wiredmagazine and co-founder and CEO of Berkeley-based 3D Robotics, which last September closed on $30 million in Series B funding, is one of those who see a much larger consumer market. 3DR makes off-the-shelf drones that are designed to be customized by the user—unmanned aircraft that sit somewhere between the consumer and hobbyist spaces. The underpinning technology could be—and will be—leveraged into commercial-drone tools in the future, Anderson says. “We’re seeing the convergence of the consumer and commercial markets,” he says. “And consumers are leading this market in terms of technology and in terms of adoption.”

Back in Indianapolis, the AirDroids drone returns from its programmed circuit and sails in for a smooth landing a few feet away. Johnson turns and shrugs, squinting into the drooping sun, almost bored. “So that’s it,” he says.

For the moment, AirDroids is still very much a startup. Johnson is tinkering with the design of the second-generation Pocket Drone in his basement. But the company’s potential market is expanding daily. Consumers looking for a small, affordable, and easy-to-use photography drone are behind the overnight success of AirDroids. And the current customers are the earliest adopters. Johnson’s co-founder Reuter says he expects sales to increase once the first units of the Pocket Drone, which costs $599, begin shipping all over the world in November. There is the potential for exponential growth—both for AirDroids and the drone industry overall. “These are established technologies with no established brands,” Reuter says. “There’s an opportunity to grab a lot of mind share.” And a lot of profits too.

by   This story is from the October 27, 2014 issue of Fortune.

192 Future Uses for Drones

Written by Thomas Frey

The thought occurred to me that mounting a video projector to a flying drone could give it unusual capabilities.

My first idea was to use it for special effects at a concert or major indoor event. But a device like this could also be used for spot advertising – creating momentary images on the sidewalk or parking lot; subliminal advertising – suggesting a variety of products or services inside graphic images; emergency rescue – displaying a series of arrows to help someone lost in a forest; or image masking – to disguise someone’s body and facial features to prevent them from being monitored.

This line of thinking started me down several dozen new paths almost instantly.

Drones can be low flying, high flying, tiny or huge, silent or noisy, super-visible or totally invisible, your best friend or your worst enemy.

We can add lights, sound, cameras, microphones, sensors, robotic arms, wave cancellation technology, or wave enhancement technology.

Simply adding a robotic display will enable us to fly in and have a private video conversation with someone on the other side of the world.

Flying drones can also roll along the ground, stick to the side of a building, float in a river, dive under water, jump onto a building, climb a tree, or attach themselves like parasites to the sides of trains, ships, and airplanes.

One moment they can be hovering in front of you and the next they can fly off at the speed of sound, disappearing into the clouds.

Combining all these capabilities, attributes, and special features into one single device will open up a world of possibilities unlike anything before in all history.

Join me as we step into the magical world ahead being unleashed with this amazing new technology – flying drones.

Introducing the Triple Checkerboard

I’ve developed a brainstorming technique called the “checkerboard” as a way to generate ideas. It’s a very simple idea – start with eight categories and list eight items in each category, enough to fill all 64 spaces on a checkerboard.

When I’m feeling extra creative, I’ll generate enough ideas to fill two checkerboards – 128 of them.

But it’s only in my most masochistic moments that I’ve decided to torture myself into coming up with a full triple checkerboard of 192 ideas. This requires a little prep work to get into the mental zone for rapid idea generation.

Naturally, jumping into an epiphany fest like this involves editing out all the goofy ones, and few others too esoteric to be meaningful.

As promised, here are the 24 categories I’ve created, with 8 examples in each category.

Tiny handheld drone

Early Warning Systems – How different would the world be if we had some advance warning that a disaster was about to happen? Each of these will require sensor swarms capable of detecting tiny changes to our atmosphere or surrounding environments.

1. Earthquake Warning Networks

2. Hurricane Monitoring Swarms

3. Tornado Warning Systems

4. Hail Preventer/Sound Cannons

5. Avalanche Preventer/Sound Cannons

6. Impending Flood Alert Systems

7. Tsunami Forecasting Systems

8. Forest Fire Preventers

First responder “get eyes on it” drone

Emergency Services

9. Missing Child Drone – Much like a hunting dog, capable of tracking the smell of the child.

10. Thermo Sensor Drones – For avalanche rescue.

11. Infrared Sensor Drones – For early forest fire detection.

12. Insect Killing Drones – Kill the insects before they kill you.

13. Poacher Drones – Tracking animals in danger of being poached.

14. Endangered Species Drone – Signals whenever an endangered species is in danger.

15. Eyes on the Problem Drone – Whenever a city receives word that there is a problem, their first response will be to send up a drone to “get eyes on it.”

16. Missing Pet Drone – Many will pay dearly to find a missing pet.

Channel 5 News with drone coverage

News Reporting

17. Accident/Incident Monitoring – High altitude monitors search for whenever a series of elevated heart rates show up, and drone will instantly zoom in for a closer look, alerting those monitoring the feed. Once an accident or incident has been detected, a series of other drones will be called in to record the entire event.

18. Time-Lapse Weather Drones – Capturing the big picture over an extended period of time from virtually any angle.

19. Protestor Cams – Wherever large groupings of people gather, drone monitoring will alert news organizations to meaningful activities.

20. Man-on-the-Street Interview Drone – Questions and answers done with common people on the street.

21. Real-Time Stats Drone – Recording everything from traffic counts, to people tendencies, to air quality, to brand preferences, to A-B testing, and more.

22. Rapid Comment/Interview Drones – Whenever a major political decision is made, “interview drones” are instantly deployed to capture public sentiment.

23. Locker Room Drones – Rapid interviews with athletes after major victories/losses.

24. Photo Drones – Spatial positioning to capture the perfect photo from the perfect angle.

Several companies are testing drone delivery services


25. PO Box Drones – Your post office box, once it’s been filled, will lift off and deliver the mail directly to you.

26. Medical Prescription Delivery – 24-hour, any time, any place.

27. Grocery Delivery – Already in use.

28. Mail, Package Delivery – Already in use.

29. Anticipatory Delivery – Automated systems anticipate a failure and preemptively order replacement parts.

30. Send-It-Back Return Drones – Clothes don’t fit or it’s not what you ordered, no problem.

31. Direct from the Farm Produce – Fresh peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cherries, and grapes any time of the year.

32. Banquet Catering Drones – Lavish feasts flown in at a moments notice.

Overhead thermoscan energy audit of building

Business Activity Monitoring

33. Construction Monitoring – Real time monitoring of building projects, even on the other side of the earth.

34. Topological Surveying – Rapid surveying systems to speed development projects.

35. Instant Environmental Impact Assessment – Instantly monitor, anticipate, and record environmental changes on any project.

36. Power Line Monitoring Drones – Checking for problems, deterioration, and signs of danger.

37. Thermo Imaging of Buildings – To spot heat loss.

38. Sensitive Product Shipping – Monitor shipping and handling of delicate products all the way from manufacturer to end customer.

39. Open Seas Pirate Monitoring Drones – Once they are spotted, send in the pirate attack drones.

40. Geological Surveying – Next-gen mapping of oil and mineral deposits.

Oculus rift controller for Parrot Bebop Drone

Gaming Drones

41. Three Dimensional Chess Drones – What’s the fun in 2D chess when you can fly your knight or rook in for a perfect kill? Checkmate!

42. World of Warcraft in Space – Working outside the limitations of two-dimensional displays, augmented reality drone games will introduce a whole new dimension to gaming.

43. Three Dimensional Treasure Hunts – Finding unusual objects in unusual places.

44. Drone Jousting Matches – The collisions will be spectacular.

45. Monster Truck Vs. Flying Drone Matches – Who wouldn’t pay to see this?

46. Drone Racing – The drone version of the Indianapolis 500.

47. Drone Obstacle Courses – Great training for aspiring drone pilots.

48. Drone Hunting Season – Forget the clay pigeons, this is far more challenging.

AirDog automatically follows and films you

Sporting Drones

49. Perfect Athlete’s Performance Sphere – Perfect weather dome formed over athlete – creating perfect humidity, temp, air pressure, etc. – to enhance athletic performance. Also shouting words of encouragement that no one else can hear.

50. Space Racing Camera Drones – Enabling audiences on earth to witness the drama unfolding as drivers race spaceships.

51. Personal Trainer Drones – Totally relentless in making you work out.

52. Instant Landing Pad – Much like an instant airbag flown in and inflated at a moment’s notice.

53. Marathon Trackers – Following the progress from miles away.

54. Runner’s Metabolism Tracker – Watch how your body changes in real-time.

55. Bareback Drone Riders – Rodeo has a new sport.

56. Outdoor Bowling – Levitating bowling game that operates 1’ above the ground, with a floating ball return.

Entertainment Drones<

57. Comedian Drone – Flies in and performs random acts of comedy.

58. Magician Drone – Flies in and performs random acts of magic.

59. Concert Swarm – Spatial cacophony of sound coming from 1,000 speaker drones simultaneously.

60. Drone Circus – Entertainment in a whole different realm.

61. Performance Art Swarms – Visual swarm ballet where our imagination is the only limiting factor.

62. Mega Photo Stitching Competitions – With thousands of drones photographing an image simultaneously, this will be the process used to create the world’s highest resolution image.

63. Prankster Drones – Send random stuff to random people and video their reactions.

64. Fireworks Dropping Drones – Our ability to “ignite and drop” fireworks from the sky will dramatically change both how they’re made and the artistry used to display them.

Video projector drone


65. Spot Advertising – Project momentary images or commercials on the sidewalk or parking lot in front of members of your target audience.

66. Subliminal Advertising – Project scenic or artistic images on walls, trees, and surfaces, each with hidden messages suggesting a variety of products or services inside the graphics and images.

67. Multimedia Formations – Swarms morphing and shape-shifting into giant three-dimensional logos and messaging.

68. Banner Pulling Drones – Old school advertising brought closer to earth.

69. Food and Product Sampler Drones – Since fewer people will be going to stores, they can sample new things on a regular basis.

70. Grandstanding Drones – Using drones to do something spectacular.

71. Flying Strobe Drones – To draw a crowd.

72. Fresh Bread Drones – The smell of fresh bread always turns people’s heads.

Helicopter drone used to monitor crops

Farming and Agriculture – As the cost of operating drones drops, they will reach a point of efficiency where it becomes profitable to have a micro drone pick and transport a single kernel of wheat 1,000 miles to its final destination.

73. Artificial Bees – Rapid pollination drones.

74. Seeding Drones – Swarmbots planting one kernel at a time.

75. Insect Monitoring Drones – Rapid identification of all insects, bugs, worms, and mites. Also executes all of the bad ones, keeping track of bug body count.

76. Fertilizer Monitoring Drones – Even trace elements can make a huge difference.

77. Disease Monitoring Drones – Even a small outbreak can be disastrous.

78. Bird Frightening Drones – For crops like sunflowers where birds can destroy an entire field in a matter of hours.

79. Crop Fogger Drones – When temperatures get below freezing.

80. Harvesting Drones – One kernel at a time if necessary.

Animal herding/monitoring drones

Ranching Drones – Tracking animal movements, pregnancies, eating patterns, weight gains-losses, and any signs of danger. Each form of livestock will require different sensors, tracking systems, and monitoring equipment.

81. Cow Monitors

82. Horse Shadowers

83. Pig Monitors

84. Bee Observers

85. Sheep Trackers

86. Chicken Monitors

87. Turkey Trackers

88. Duck & Geese Monitors

Police drone

Police Drones – The police will use drones to track down criminals and even for search and rescue missions. They’re a cost-effective alternative to manned helicopters.

89. Drug Sniffing Drones – Faster and more versatile than bloodhounds.

90. Political Corruption Sniffing Drones – Faster and more versatile than whistleblowers…. Maybe!

91. High Speed Chase Drones – The chase is over even before it starts.

92. Domestic Violence Monitors – Remote monitoring of potentially volatile situations.

93. Child Abuse Monitors – When in doubt, these hovering nanny-cams will provide close scrutiny.

94. Neighborhood Watch Cams – Patrolling the neighborhood even when the neighbors are gone.

95. Ankle Bracelet Replacement Drones – Adjusted to the freedoms stipulated by the courts with more real-time data.

96. Instant Court Drones – Your day in court may only be minutes after receiving your ticket.

Smart Home Drones

97. Airbrush Swarm – Add artistic murals to your walls in seconds.

98. Dusting Drone – Cleans walls, shelves, countertops, and virtually every other surface.

99. Lawn Manicuring Drone – Perfect lawns every time.

100. Leaf Raking Drones – Menial labor is a thing of the past.

101. Home Security Drones – Whether the threat is coming from the sky or on the ground, these drones will spot the problem, alert the owners, alert authorities, and rain fire and brimstone down on any intruders.

102. 3D Printer Repair Drone – Whenever a crack or damage occurs, the 3D printer drone will fly in and print a perfect patch every time.

103. Special Drone Docks – To allow 24-7 drone deliveries, and to alert you when they arrive.

104. Diaper Changing Drones – I have no idea how this one will work, but once perfected, the demand will be off the charts.

Real Estate

105. Real Estate Photography Drones – Real estate agents, especially those selling high-end homes, use drones to fly over their listed properties and capture aerial footage of the grounds and surrounding neighborhoods.

106. Atmospheric Water Harvesting Drones – Fly to high humidity areas, suck moisture from the air, and deliver it within minutes.

107. Home Inspection Drones – Find the problems before spending too much time on a property.

108. Battery Replacement Drones – Replace the batteries in your house, much like replacing the batteries in your clock.

109. Trash Removal Drones – Off grid living at it’s best.

110. Sewage Removal Drones – To distant leech fields.

111. Insurance Adjuster Drones – Filing a claim will never been easier.

112. Instant Listing Drone – Put your house up for sale in a matter of minutes.

University of South Florida plans to let students checkout drones at its library

Library Drones – As we enter the drone era, the library/sharing economy will take on some interesting new dimensions.

113. Tool Loaning Libraries – Borrow a drill, wrench, socket set, welding torch, hammer, plane, power saw, soldering iron, or more.

114. Emergency Equipment Loaning Libraries – Emergency generators, emergency lighting, first aid kits, etc.

115. Pet Lending Library – Animal shelters or fraction pet ownership kennels will be able to fly your pet to you at a moments notice.

116. 24-Hour Books, Audio Books, Videos, Artwork, & Information Archives – On demand library services delivered right to your home.

117. Tech Lending Library – If you find an old Commodore 64 disc or Atari Space Invaders cartridge and want to have a retro weekend, just borrow one of the original computers or game consoles to make it happen.

118. Borrow an Expert Library – Flying video screen with a live connection so you can have a brief conversation with an expert who can answer your questions.

119. Borrow a Big Brother – Companionship with a drone chaperone.

120. Drone Lending Library – Borrow a drone. It will come to you.

Titan Aerospace solar powered WiFi drone!

Military and Spy Uses – In 2010 the U.S. Military spent $4.5 billion on drones. By 2018, that number is expected to reach $18.7 billion.

121. Missile Launching Drones – Already in use.

122. Bomb-Dropping Drones – Already in use.

123. Flying Camouflage Drones – Visually masking everything below.

124. Communication Disruptors – Creating zero-communication zones over targeted areas.

125. Battlefield Medical Supply Drones – Providing almost instant source of supplies and equipment for battlefield injuries.

126. Invisible Spy Drones – Too small to see, with rolling, jumping, flying, attach to anything capabilities.

127. Heat Seeking Bullet Drone – Perhaps the most dangerous weapon ever to be invented, this bullet-size drone can be shot from thousands of miles away at a specific target, and never miss.

128. Solar Powered High-Altitude WiFi Drones – In March 2014, Facebook purchased Ascenta, a solar-powered drone company based in the UK. Facebook intends to use the high-altitude flyers as part of a network of linked satellites, drones and lasers that can beam Internet to remote communities from the sky. In April 2014, Google purchased its own solar-powered drone company: Titan Aerospace. The company designs ultra-lightweight, solar-powered planes that fly high above commercial air traffic and can remain aloft for up to five years.

Healthcare Drones

129. Humanitarian Applications – Researchers at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology are developing drones that can deliver vaccines and other critical medical supplies to remote locations in the developing world.

130. Canary Drones – Test out air quality inside mines and other questionable air environments.

131. Body Sphere Monitoring – Swarm of micro drones to monitor any changes in a person’s energy fields.

132. Hovering Health Monitors – Real time tracking, measuring, and analyzing body movements.

133. Physical Movement Analysis – Therapeutic monitoring of all physical movement to analyze strengths and efficiencies and suggest ways to improve.

134. Skin Care Monitor – Tracking overall skin and dermis health.

135. Seeing Eye Drone – Replacing the seeing-eye dog.

136. Infectious Disease Monitoring Drone – Will alert you whenever you’re about to come into close proximity with someone carrying a contagious disease.

Cal Poly students’ “SkyBarge” won American Society of Mechanical Engineers drone competition

Educational Drones

137. Historical Reference – “At this location on Oct 18, 1963 a meeting was held to decide the fate….”

138. Real-Time Perspectives – “A civil war is currently being fought between rival factions and these are before and after scenes of the main transportation route through their country…”

139. Geometric Shapes – Drones used to form patterns in space, showing the math behind calculating angles, volumes, areas, and relationships.

140. The Question & Answer Drone – Wherever you walk, this drone will pose a constant series of questions to challenge your understanding of the world around you. Correct answers will be given after three attempts.

141. Documentary Drones – Film and motion picture companies using drones for aerial footage, because drones are quieter and don’t vibrate as much as helicopters.

142. Language Partner Drone – Learn a foreign language with an interactive drone partner.

143. Basic Math Drones – Real math problems done with three-dimensional examples, unfolding before your eyes.

144. SAT-ACT Prep Drone – Constant testing until you’re ready for prime time.

Science & Discovery

145. Archeology – A team of archaeologists uncovered structures thought to be from an ancient Native American village in New Mexico using drones equipped with heat-sensing cameras. The thermal images enabled the researchers to see beneath the desert floor, which helped them locate the buried structures.

146. Whale Watching – Real time tracking of whale pods everywhere in the world.

147. Bird Migration – Real time tracking of birds as they move through their migratory patterns.

148. Forest Health – Map everything from bark beetles, to pine beetles, to spruce beetles, to disease patterns, and more.

149. Ocean Currents – Using temperature sensors to do real time tracking of warm water currents.

150. Aurora Borealis – Real time tracking of the northern lights and the underlying colliding solar winds and magnetospheric charged particles.

151. Solar Flare Monitoring – Using a diverse pattern of solar-watching drones, scientists will be able to do real time monitoring of all solar activity with far greater precision than anything used today.

152. Earth Noise Monitoring – Establishing a wide configuration of listening posts throughout the atmosphere to listen to the shifting noise patterns of the earth itself.

Future commuter drone!

Travel Drones – Oddly enough, flying drones will replace our need for flying cars.

153. Commuter Drones

154. Taxi-Limo Drones

155. Bar Hopping Drone

156. Tourist Attraction Drones

157. Hop-on-Hop-off Drones

158. Emergency Rescue Drones

159. Trucking Drones

160. Overnight Sleeper Drones

UAV with robotic arm

Robotic Arm Drones – Add a robotic arm to a flying drone and a person’s mind begins to swirl with possibilities.

161. Hazardous Material Drones

162. Transporting Dangerous Chemical Drones

163. Rescuing Dangerous Animal Drones

164. Chess-Playing Drones

165. Arm Wrestling Drones

166. Spot-Welding in Difficult Places Drones

167. Mechanical Repair in Difficult Places Drones

168. Space Junk Removal Drones

Reality Distortion Fields – Steve Job’s secret talent applied to drones. This involves our ability to distort virtually every form of our sensory perceptions.

169. Odor Cancellation – Eliminate bad odors and make every bathroom, landfill, and pig farm smell like springtime.

170. Sound & Noise Cancellation – Noisy neighbors can be a thing of the past.

171. Visible Light Cancellation – Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak done with drones.

172. Magnifying Drones – Make distant object appear closer.

173. De-Magnifying Drones – Make close objects seem further away.

174. Color Changing Drones – Distort the visible light spectrum to whatever you desire.

175. Thermo Cannons – To blast heat into whatever may need heat.

176. Voices in Our Head Drones – Silent invisible drone that talks to us. With a little voodoo programming the voice can sound exactly like a person’s own voice. Bad guys and terrorists can be influenced and maybe even grow a conscious without ever knowing they’re being externally manipulated.

Periscope drone, capable of seeing far beyond what’s on the ground

Novelty Drones

177. Personal Periscopes – Want to see over a tall building? No problem, and you can even view the image on your smartphone.

178. Plant Communicator Drones – If we listen closely, every plant is speaking to us.

179. Frisbee Turbo Fliers – Comes with a self-balancing turbo booster to assist Frisbee gamers everywhere.

180. Shade Drones – Too much sun, no problem. The drone clouds are here!

181. Mosquito-Free Zone Drones – Keeps all of these pesky critters away.

182. Dating Drone – Spots nearby potential dating partners who fall into your compatibility categories.

183. Relevancy Drone – To filter out anything that’s not relevant.

184. Elevator Drones – Set up to move people on the outside of buildings, also with the capability of doing building hopping.

Will floating drone cities ever be possible?

Far Out Concepts

185. Massive Flying Drone Resorts – Think of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas hovering at 1,000-foot altitude. Paradise in the clouds.

186. Artificial Earthworms – Microbe-sized swarmbots can be built to “chew their way through” landfills and fields of toxic material as a way of improving the rate of decomposition and lowing toxicity levels.

187. Personal Prep Swarms – Once we step out of the shower in the morning, the swarmbots will dry our skin, fix our hair, and take their place as part of our ever-changing wardrobe.

188. Swarm Clothing – Flying swarmbots will serve as our clothing, flying into “clothing formation” on command, reconfiguring themselves according to our fashion moods, changing color on a whim.

189. Protective Swarms – Flying swarmbots will be capable of forming shields to protect people from too much sun, too much wind, and even temperature extremes. In personal confrontations, swarmbots will form a protective shield around people, keeping them safe.

190. Mental Conduit Swarms – Swarmbots will serve as an information conduit for our minds, forming antennae to capture wireless transmissions, forming an information-processing array for the data, floating visual displays that only we can see.

191. Remote Viewing Swarms – Remote viewing from anywhere, at any time, from any angle, will be possible as the swarm moves into whatever position we ask it to. This “eye in the sky” can range from several miles across on one extreme to a micrometer across on the other.

192. Superman Swarm – With flying swarms that serve as our clothing, the next step will be for them to evolve into an exoskeleton of sorts for physical enhancement. Flying swarms will give of superhuman strength, superhuman durability, and even the ability to fly.

Final Thoughts

The purpose of composing this rather exhaustive list is not an attempt to cover everything, but rather to show the enormous versatility of this platform.

The complete list of will easily include over 10,000 listings.

Some may think that drones will become the most annoying devices on earth. In many cases that might be true.

Without the proper protections, drones can be dangerous. The same drones that deliver food and water can also deliver bombs and poison. We may very well have drones watching the workers who watch the drones, and even that may not be enough.

Eventually we’ll find the positive uses far outweigh the negative ones, and we’ll develop the right systems to make it all workable.

As we go down this path, we’ll also be unleashing millions of new startups that are destined to drive the economy for decades, if not centuries, to come.

About the author:

Thomas Frey is the innovation editor of THE FUTURIST magazine. His website is

Drone Demand Sizzles Heading into the Holidays

(Source: Market Watch)  

The retail world is coming upon its most lucrative time of the year: the holiday season. But move aside Disney Frozen Elsa dolls, you have a competitor.

For the first time, drones, or FPV planes, are among the top autofill responses when users type “I want to buy” on the Google search bar, joining regulars such as “house,” “car,” and “stock” and replacing the word “gun” in the top four.

This comes from a report on off-the-grid economic indicators compiled by New York-based brokerage ConvergEx Group, which keeps quarterly tabs on Google Trends data.

The analysis speaks to a growing market for consumer drones, which appear to be joining the ranks in popularity of consumer tech devices such as GoPro —only with the ability to fly up to 400 feet above the Earth and stream dizzying videos to smartphones in real time.

French manufacturer Parrot SA which is among the three largest consumer drone companies in the world, said drone sales this year are up three times over 2013, led by its lower-tier Mini Drone, which retails for $100. Parrot expects sales to triple again in 2015.

“The growth for us has been significant,” said Peter George, Parrot’s vice president of sales for North America, adding that demand has spiked recently amid the approaching holiday season and loosening regulations on commercial drone use.

Parrot raked in 42.1 million euros ($53.35 million) from drones in fiscal 2013, comprising some 18% of Parrot’s total revenues of 235.1 million euros last year, according to filings.

The other two major drone makers, DJI Innovations and 3D Robotics, are privately held. But some data point to DJI generating revenues of around $131 million in 2013, while 3D Robotics raised more than $30 million in venture capital last year and is said to have sold more than 30,000 units by midyear.

And even as consumers are looking at drones as potential Christmas gifts, commercial uses are expanding.

“A year ago people didn’t even know drones were used by the military,” said Nicholas Colas, ConvergEx chief market strategist. “To have a drone break in [and now be considered a consumer device, is fascinating.”

Part of the meteoric rise is the fact that nonmilitary drones are being developed for a wide range of applications, thanks in part to loosened regulations by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regarding unmanned aircraft. Commercial drones are now being designed to do anything from mapping national parks and monitoring traffic to locating people during emergencies.

Just law week the FAA gave the green light for six movie studios to fly unmanned aircraft for films and television shows. It said it was considering dozens of other requests from commercial companies, including, which is seeking approval for an all-drone delivery service, Amazon PrimeAir.

Silicon Valley heavyweights have joined the chorus in recent months, with Facebook Inc. buying U.K.-based drone company Ascenta, which makes long-lasting solar-powered drones, in March. In April, Google scooped up high-altitude drone maker Titan, just four months after buying robotics maker Boston Dynamics.

Parrot will unleash its highest-end consumer drone, called the Bebop, in November, expected to retail around $500.

Bebop will be adorned with a high-definition, 15-megapixel, fisheye camera—as good as any in GoPro’s Hero camera line.

Parrot said it has already been contacted by Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar and Warner Bros. Entertainment TWX,about using its drones to film movies.

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