New 3DR investor Richard Branson explains why everyone’s talking about drones

Earlier this year at CES, the show described 2014 as “the year of the drone.” With good reason, too. In just the last month, we have seen Google unveil a new drone delivery system, Disney reveal several patents seeking to use UAVs around theme parks, a number of drones being used to inspect bridge safety, as well as the Pentagon announce a new drone base in Africa.

(Source: 3D Robotics)

(Source: 3D Robotics)

Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now. Furthermore, Amazon recently came together with several makers of small UAVs, including 3D RoboticsDJI Innovations and Parrot, to create a coalition in hopes of accelerating the development and use of these unmanned vehicles in coming years.

Most recently, Chris Anderson brought six drones to Necker Island, as the 3D Robotics Co-Founder met up with English business magnate, Sir Richard Branson, to discuss the endless potential for drones.

(Source: 3D Robotics)

(Source: 3D Robotics)

The Virgin Founder wrote in his blog:

“It’s amazing to see just how many useful applications exist for drones. A few weeks ago, I was deeply saddened to hear that rhinos are being airlifted away from Kruger National Park in South Africa because of the continuing threat from poaching. Over the last 40 years, we’ve lost 95% of the world’s rhinos; this year alone, more than 400 rhinos have been poached in Kruger. Kruger is roughly the size of Israel, an area too vast to police effectively on the ground alone. Here, drones could become a powerful instrument to monitor and track poachers. Already NGOs, researchers and even Google are supporting various projects using drones to tackle the problem.”

For many, the term “drone” seems to conjure images of military use and war weaponry. As a result, the mere thought of these futuristic flying devices tends to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, UAVs used for defense purposes and those that may one day may buzz around the skies are quite different, and in fact, may change the world — for the better. According to Anderson, the (AVR-powered) DIY drone community will soon have more than 15,000 drones flying, compared to some 7,000 drones in use worldwide by military forces. Martha Stewart, known by many for her expertise in and around the home, has also shared her love for these flying robots in an essay that appeared in TIME Magazine, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.”

“As is the case with all technology, we have a choice. We can design and use drones to make the world a better, safer, fairer and more fun place. Or we can use them to create further divisions between people,” Branson urges.

In the video below, Virgin and 3D Robotics share some of the positive ways we can use ‘drones for good’ and how these UAVs are already being used around the world. Interested in reading more? Soar on over to Virgin’s official page to learn more about their #Drones4Good campaign. While you’re at it, check out these 18 ways the next-gen flying apparatuses can provide benefits to society.

UPDATE: 3D Robotics has officially announced that Richard Branson has become the drone maker’s latest investor.

“I’m really excited about the potential 3DR sees in drones. They can do a lot of good in the world, and I hope this affordable technology will give many more people the chance to see our beautiful planet from such a powerful perspective,” says Branson.

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