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Flying Drones 101: Revealing a World of Possibilities

A recent video campaign jointly produced by Coca-Cola and the Singapore Kindness Movement went viral both locally and internationally. In the two minute clip, Singaporeans sent notes of goodwill to foreign workers up to construction sites.

Coke's drones sending bundles of joy to construction workers
Taken from Youtube

I seem to be the only one around I know who cannot seem to get over the fact that drones were actually used to fly up tens of stories, drop the packages, then fly off into the distant sunset. Yes, drones. Did you notice?

Also read: S’pore foreign workers receive gifts of gratitude from #CokeDrones: Here are our thoughts

A few questions and thoughts popped into my head.

When did drones become available in Singapore!

They fly really high!

They can deliver Coke!

This is COOL! I want one!

For the less informed, currently, drones or quads are another name for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV’s for short.

Testing the Parrot's A.R. Drone.
Taken from Youtube

Compared to previous drones and their US military predecessors, commercial drones are superior to their unmanned flying airplanes in that they can hover and do not need a landing strip.

Previously inaccessible to the mass market largely due to price and availability, you can now purchase one online easily. They have reduced in size and price, improved in camera capabilities, battery life, connectivity, and are even able to withstand reasonably strong gusts of wind.

Some of the higher end ones now come with Wi-Fi, GPS, and even homing capabilities which means that they are able to find their way back to the owner by themselves.

Usually equipped with gyroscopes and accelerometers, quads these days can be controlled with an app on your iPhone. An app on your iPhone turns your humble phone device into an actual remote controller that operates on Wi-Fi.

A view of a drone flying around in Singapore skies
Taken from Youtube

The athletic prowess of drones have reached an astounding level. Today, they are used by aerial photographers, hobbyists, law enforcement, scientific researchers, and more.

So, why should you bother about drones, really? What good is it anyway to  someone like you and I? 

Things will Start to Drop From the Sky in the Not-So-Distant Future

In case you’re thinking killer litter, no. I mean parcels will be delivered by these drones. MNCs at the forefront of embracing technology like that of Amazon are currently conducting testing to see the feasibility of such a maneuver. Even Dominoes Pizza has successfully done a delivery test.

Taken from Youtube
Taken from Youtube

Currently, there are rules that are in place to prevent the commercial use of drones. However, as society at large becomes more accepting of them, expect to start receiving your FedEx parcel or letter by drone, perched nicely on your windowsill, waiting for you to approve.

It is About to Be a Billion Dollar Industry

Brace yourselves. According to Business Insider, spending on commercial drones will possibly go up to about $12 billion in the global market.

On a More Local Scale

Avetics,  a local startup offers services that utilize drones to capture unrivaled and unmatched aerial photography.

Taken from http://www.avetics.com/offshore/
Taken from http://www.avetics.com/offshore/

The oncoming wave of drones and the republic’s potential demand of such services promise nothing more than a bullish future for the industry, or so it seems.  Birds-eye views previously unimagined without the use of a helicopter can now be attained without the need to hire a whole helicopter. To filmmakers, this revolution inadvertently opens a whole new world of possibilities for filming scenes. Riding this wave might just very well turn out to be your future cash cow.

On a More Personal Level

Taken from Youtube
Taken from Youtube

It is uber cool. Why won’t you want one! Just like how Digimons and Tamagotchis took Singapore by storm back in the mid 1990s, I see the uses of drones being more than just flying cameras in the future. Its uses will be improved and expanded upon as users find new ways to utilize this nifty flying machine. Think applications on the iTunes store and how thousands of developers worldwide develop on a standard framework, given the limitations of the iPhone. How would you like a drone that can fetch things for you, or just be your next digital pet, that goes back to its own charging station to “rest”.

Now that you’re convinced you want one, here are three awesome drones we’ve identified for you to kickstart your search.

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

Taken from Youtube
Taken from Youtube

The Parrot AR ver 2.0 is the most popular drone on the consumer market. It boasts Wi-Fi and a built-in camera capable of capturing 720HD videos. It can soar through the sky for up to 36 minutes at a time, recording and streaming videos.

Fulfilling all the requirements of a decent drone, it is most notable for its styrofoam hull that prevents damage to itself and others. It comes with various editions that have differing capabilities like a GPS system. It retails anywhere between USD300-USD400.

DJI Phantom GPS Drone 

Taken from http://www.richardbarrow.com/
Taken from http://www.richardbarrow.com/

Retailing at anywhere between USD400 to USD700, depending on the respective capabilities, it caters to more serious enthusiasts who’re willing and able to splurge on a mean flying machine. Among many other solid features, it boasts homing capabilities and intelligent orientation controlling.

The Flexbot – The Tamiya of the new age

Taken from Youtube.
Taken from Youtube.

Remember the Tamiya revolution back in the late 90s which got kids pitting their Tamiya cars against each other in a racetrack to win all sorts of prizes? Well, this self-printable hexacopter or quadcopter is modifiable, small, and nimble. Retailing at USD49, 69 and 159 for different pricing plans, this makes the perfect gift for any up and coming techie. Think drone racing in the not so distant future.

The Future of Drones 

Besides just satisfying the taste buds of salivating hobbyists and cinematographers, the future use of drones are not exhausted; below are some possible uses:

– Delivering packages
– Drone rallies like those in star wars: Think Tamiya.
– Sell real estate
– Campus guides
– Search for fugitives or lost planes
– Getting aerial views of everything: Sports games, military exercises, competitions, housing estates, jams, etc.
–  A modern version of Hide and Seek for kids in their neighbourhoods
– Deliver relief goods to disaster-struck areas.
– Surveilling and patrolling forests for fires

On the future of drones, Weiliang, 27, a member of startup Avetics says, “… for drones to remain relevant in the future, more miniature sensors must be developed. We are now only at the initial stage where cameras are used. Along with the data collected, a more robust software that can handle sensor data in 3D is required to make sense of all the data…”

Who knows, maybe we will have drones of the future harnessing solar power so that they will attain perpetual flight.

Only time will tell if commercial drones will eventually catch on in Singapore or if they will remain as quintessential toys for the geeks, hobbyists, and specialists.

Also read: Atmospheric Wars could start soon: Facebook Solar Drones vs Google Balloons

 

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