Commercial Drones

Drones have been a hot topic in recent years. For some reason whenever someone sees a drone in the sky, they become instantly defensive, keeping a keen eye on the direction it is going. In a time where our personal security and privacy seems to be all up in the air, people are hardly receptive towards drones. 

But drones can offer us so much, and there is so much that drones can do that a lot of the general public miss out on. A prime example is Zipline, a Silicon Valley drone company, that operates a fleet of drones in Rwanda. They use their drones to air drop blood and medical supplies to areas that are inaccessible by any other mode of transport. In this regard, surly investment in the commercial use of drones would be a huge step forward?

If we hop over to America, the FAA are looking to use drones for that exact purpose. They have announced that they will choose a dozen cities and states to be able to use drones for commercial use. In response, 149 cities and states have sent in bids to become a drone using state.  

Among the bidders, North Carolina is looking to fully utilise the usage of drones to increase life expectancy across the state. The life expectancy in rural areas is 8 years lower than that of urban areas. Using Rwanda as a prime example, North Carolina are looking to team up with Zipline, and would be able to transport medicine and other life-saving supplies to people in areas that would be too difficult to reach.

Keller Rinaudo, Ziplines founder, says its not a question of that this type of delivery will replace large swathes of supply chain, and not just in developing world health care. 

Rinaudo goes on to say: “Instant delivery is already pretty big,” in reference to services such as Amazon Prime and Deliveroo, the food delivery app. “The funny thing is that it all uses this underlining technology platform, which is a teenager driving a 3,000lb gas combustion vehicle to deliver something to you that weighs 1lb. We will look back on that and think it was pretty weird.” He added: “If we have instant delivery for hamburgers, we should damn well have it for medicine.”

The US pilot programme, set up by the Trump administration, sets to pave way for a new dawn of drone utilisation, and provide a model for Britain, itself looking into the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. European regulators are understood to be considering launching similar pilot programmes, but the process will take a lot longer than America, as there are more requirements and regulations for drones. For example, the European regulator recommended banning hobbyists from using drones out of their line of sight. France have proposed a law that would require drones weighing more than 1.7lb to be fitted with a blinking light, visible from 500 ft away. 

Of course, with something as new and revolutionising as commercial drones, there has been a lot of criticism, which, in turn will slow down any drone initiative. Critics have fears over invasion of privacy, to them being used by terrorists and drug dealers.  

To me, this is incredibly exciting. Looking past the concept of a small drone delivering my pizza, the prospect of someone receiving medical care in remote parts of the world is incredible. With my family living in rural Scotland, I know too well of cases where someone dies from a health problem that could be easily prevented if they had easy access to healthcare. I think it is a huge step forward for us, and looking past healthcare, having an electric drone fly through the sky is far better than a 2 tonne lump of metal blasting toxins into the air we breathe.