Drones were the hot Christmas gift of 2014, but where is this industry going? There've been a lot of ideas, ranging from selfie drones to automated delivery of defibrillators. Here's one more you might not have heard of.
Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics just gave a great talk at GMIC on the case for using low altitude drones to image our planet. To make an analogy, cellphone towers proved to be better than satellites for providing wireless data access, because cellphone towers partition the planet into many small neighborhoods (around the cell towers) and provide high quality service in these regions. In the same way, having numerous short-range drones look like a promising alternative to satellites for providing high-frequency, high-resolution images of farms, construction sites, etc. Drones can fly at low altitudes and frequently image these areas.
There're still significant safety, regulatory, social and technology hurdles to clear. But the ability to image our planet will create new opportunities in agriculture, construction, environmental studies, oil and gas surveying, and other areas.