There’s a revolution in the drone industry heading our way, and it’s going to change the way we look at our cities’ infrastructure.

The drone industry is booming. Actually, it’s exploding. In 2016, the influential US market saw 224% growth in drone sales, up dramatically on 2015. And that trend is exponential.

In fact, it’s estimated that yearly drone sales could increase ten-fold in just six years.

Market intelligence firm Tractica claims that the 6.4 million drones sold through 2015 will pale in comparison to the 67.7 million that it expects to be sold in 2021.

That’s a lot of unmanned aerial vehicles whizzing about above our heads!

As the use of drones expands beyond hobbyists and the military into the commercial and services sectors, the risk of chaos in our skies rises. Drone traffic may eventually need to be monitored, orchestrated and restricted to pre-approved pathways, and that will all occur in the Dronosphere.

What is the Dronosphere?

The Dronosphere is not an official name, as this tech is truly still around the corner; it’s a term that describes the section or sections of the atmosphere that could be used for commercial drone traffic in the future.

As drone technology is rapidly expanding and evolving during the current boom – alongside other advancements in sectors on which drones heavily rely, such as machine learning, automation and high-speed internet – we do not yet know how high the Dronosphere’s altitude will be.

It will be a careful balancing act between the abilities of the hardware, and the needs of light aircraft and human pursuits like paragliding, and wildlife, as well as any other as-yet unforeseen concerns.

Why is the Dronosphere important?

Drones are quickly establishing themselves as a high-value, economical solution to the pressures some countries face with infrastructure, natural resources and global warming.

They can also facilitate the growing consumer interest in on-demand services. Batteries, solar power, hydrogen fuel cells and laser transmitters are all technologies used to power drones. Plus, they don’t clog up roads, able to travel above existing infrastructure.

The Dronosphere is therefore likely to become a vitally important part of our future infrastructure.

Good governance should help to lower the risk of heavy payloads falling to the earth and mid-air collisions, as well as preventing drones from veering off course, invading citizen privacy or endangering wildlife.

The foundations of the Dronosphere

Only a few years ago, outside of military use, one drone was quite similar to another. They could only work in short bursts due to low battery life, could hover not much higher than the trees, and travel not far from the controlling device.

However, now we’re starting to see a more diversification as drones begin evolving to suit a wider range of needs.

Amazon is starting to pioneer delivery drones to help accentuate their on-demand retail services.

We’re seeing selfie drones, drones that offer internet connectivity, drones that fit in your pocket, drones with obstacle avoidance tech, drones with thermal imaging cameras and with 4K resolution cameras - there are even underwater drones for locating fish.

However, it will be improvements in battery life, carrying weight capacity, connectivity (to allow for travelling greater distances), GPS (to stick to existing infrastructure routes and the desired altitude), weather resistance and artificial intelligence (in particular with collision avoidance) that will truly see the need for a Dronosphere to be officialised.

10 uses of the Dronosphere

Here’s a quick look at some of the ways fully connected drones could impact the world that’s just around the corner.

  1. Search and Rescue: Drones could be flown into dangerous environments such as fires, rugged bushland, dangerous oceans and collapsed buildings, potentially helping emergency services locate victims quickly and without endangering personnel. Drones could also be able to deliver water, food and medical supplies quickly to those in need. In fact, Australia is helping pioneer medical supply drones in the latest UAV Challenge for university students
  2. Real-Time Traffic Video: Instead of looking for updates on social media or listening to the radio, traffic conditions could be broadcast by live video direct from drones straight to your smart device or car dashboard.
  3. News Reporting: Broadcasters could be able to provide better information and awareness of breaking stories in hard-to-reach locations and during dangerous conflicts. Plus, they could reach areas of interest by drone a lot faster than they can physically.
  4. Live Video on Social: One of the big tech trends of 2017 is the use of live video on social media. Future drone technology could allow your personal device hovering nearby to live stream your actions to social platforms.
  5. Wildlife Protection: The location, identification and tracking of endangered or injured animals may be improved greatly by drone technology. Animals tagged with trackers could be able to be found quickly and monitored in combination with GPS technology.
  6. Shark Sightings: In future, we may see drones patrolling our shores monitoring shark traffic and looking for, and identifying, concerning shapes in the water. Real-time delivery of information to surf clubs would provide quick activation of shark alarms.
  7. Precision Agriculture: Sophisticated, precise drones are expected to revolutionise the agriculture industry. These could offer fast and efficient seeding, watering and even monitoring of crops to maximise the amount of produce yielded from the land.
  8. Maintenance Inspections: Human time and safety may no longer need to be put at risk when inspecting big constructions like skyscrapers, dams, bridges and more. Drones carrying high-resolution cameras could provide a detailed eye in the sky.
  9. Sport: We’re already seeing drone tournaments broadcast through networks like ESPN, and this budding sport should diversify with the Dronosphere. Endurance races, or courses in challenging locations such as mountain ranges, could quickly increase the popularity of drones as entertainment.
  10. Retail Deliveries: Finally, we have the most obvious of all; on-demand consumerism. As mentioned previously, Amazon is already on the cusp of offering drone deliveries to customers. Obviously, weight restrictions will be a concern with the technology and governance of the Dronosphere, but everything from food to lightweight cosmetics or accessories could initially be available. In fact, one day you may even order a drone and have it delivered by drone.

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