Tag Archives: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Video: Cirque du Soleil dances with drones

Cirque du Soleil is known for their dramatic combination of circus arts, street entertainment and human movement. Now, throw some quadcopter magic into that mix.

While we’ve seen inanimate objects come to life onscreen in nearly ever Disney movie, these special effects are typically the culmination of long hours of work in animations labs. So, how could these effects be brought into the real world? Over the past five years, researchers at ETH Zurich have studied the possibilities of using “athletic quadcopters,” algorithmically-powered drones that can solve problems in human-like fashion.


Partnering with Verity Studios and Cirque, the team has produced a short-film entitled “SPARKED,” which features a flying dance performance of 10 drones. The collaboration made way for unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones both move in sync… and it was quite stunning.

The film is an entirely effect-free short movie starring a repairman and several lampshades that suddenly come to life. As you might have guessed it, the lampshades are actually [perhaps AVR MCU-powered?] drones in disguise.


Verity Studios, an offshoot of ETH, captured the four-minute film at the Flying Machine Arena at ETH Zurich, which researcher Markus Hehn calls “a sophisticated test bed for autonomous flight that we use for development, testing, and demonstration of our flying machines.”

The ballet-like choreography is the result of algorithms that capture data from the flying bots along with various off-the-shelf hardware components like a motion capture system (which serves as an indoor GPS), a couple of standard desktop PCs, and wireless routers.

So without further ado, watch the amazing performance below!

Oh, and speaking of Disney magic and drones, that may happen sooner than you think.

Lights, cameras, drones! FAA approves use of UAVs for film

This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a big step forward on drones: It has authorized six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft.


In an effort that marks a giant milestone for commercial drone use in the United States, the FAA granted each of the six companies waivers from regulations on general flight rules, pilot certification and equipment mandates designed for traditional aircraft as long as they meet certain conditions for safety. The agency is currently working with a seventh company on a similar drone approval and has at least 40 additional waiver requests pending for commercial use of UAVs, The New York Times reports.

While the FAA has previously approved commercial drone use for Alaskan oil operations, FAA’s decision is certainly the first exemption of its kind. Now, the companies will be permitted to fly small drones equipped with cameras on closed sets; though, the FAA did say the aircraft must be inspected before each flight and may only be operated during the day, while any accidents or other related incidents must be reported.

As the Washington Post writes, the civil drone industry has been pressuring the FAA to relax that ban and to develop new regulations designed to safely integrate UAVs into the country’s air traffic system. “While we’re still waiting for those formal rules, the FAA is now saying that making movies with drones, or TV shows, or advertisements, or anything else you might do on a closed production set, is legal — so long as you can prove it’s safe.”

This decision will surely pave a path towards more approvals for drone use throughout agriculture, industrial inspections, real estate, as well as countless other cases — many of which are listed here.

The FAA shared that it is in the process of evaluating requests from nearly 50 companies, including Amazon, who last month teamed up with 3D RoboticsDJI Innovations and Parrot to form a small UAV coalition aspiring to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology.

“There has been a lot of interest around this technology lately, and I have determined that using unmanned aircraft for this purpose does not pose a risk to national airspace users,”  stated Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.


UAVs have been popular choice among Hollywood producers, particularly given their ability to fly and capture otherwise unimaginable shots. Believe it or not, there have already been several box office hits that featured drone footage (taken from locations outside of the U.S.), including Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises. 

“We shot Fast & Furious 6 over in Moscow, and we’ve been up in Canada,” explained Preston Ryon, Co-Owner of Snaproll Media LLC, one of the recently-approved companies. The other companies who received drone use exemptions included Astraeus Aerial, HeliVideo Productions LLC and RC Pro Productions Consulting LLC.

Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, proclaimed that the FAA’s exemption mark “an important day for the [film] industry that will create a climate where more production is done at home.”

It’s safe to say that Hollywood’s exemption is merely the beginning. As these drones — many of which are powered by Atmel AVR microcontrollers — continue to become more affordable, accessible and easier to use, we can expect a future that’ll be both autonomous and airborne. With more than 15,000+ DIY drones ready to take flight,



University of Virginia team creates 3D-printed drone

When testing a flying prototype, an inventor’s biggest fear is a crash landing. David Sheffler’s team at the University of Virginia has eliminated this risk with their creation of a 3D-printed drone they call “The Razor.” If their UAV plummets to the ground, they can just print out another one on the spot!


Sheffler’s team of engineering students has devised a UAV, which utilizes an Android smartphone as the central processor. The lightweight Razor can carry a payload of 1.5 pounds and fly at speeds up to 100mph — though, Sheffler admits the “sweet spot” is around 40mph. The Android phone’s camera can be tasked to take pictures while in-flight and the navigation system can track the UAV’s distance traveled.

The former Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce engineer had designed some 3D-printed engines previously in his tenure at the university. The MITRE Corporation, a DoD contractor, caught wind of his creations and asked if he could create a 3D-printed drone that would be built with common tools and parts. Sheffler was certainly up for the task and so, The Razor was born.

The six-pound drone features nine distinct parts that can be printed for about $800 in total. If one part becomes damaged in the field, a new piece can easily be sourced and installed for a negligible cost.

The team has gone through a series of Razor prototypes before settling on the design. The first prototype — the orange and blue model seen in the video below — was based on a conventional RC aircraft comprised of balsa wood, which is much lighter and stronger than the ABS plastic used in the university’s 3D printers. The same plane made of plastic would have weighed five times as much as the wood version. “You’re printing out of a material that’s really not well-suited to making an airplane,” Sheffler tells Wired.

The ease of retooling and testing designs has made the project incredibly informative for the field of 3D-printed flight. The team’s drone can now be hand launched and patrol the skies for up to 45 minutes. If lightweight, low-cost drones like this one were implemented in crisis zones across the globe, innumerable lives could be kept out of danger.

“3D printing is at the phase where personal computers were in the 1980s. The technology is almost unbounded,” Sheffler reveals. “This program was really tasked with showing what is possible.”


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.

Move over Mickey, drones are heading to Disney

Walt Disney World guests may soon come for the rides, but stay for the drone shows. Just this week, MarketWatch revealed that the entertainment giant had applied for three drone-related patents, each seemingly hinting that Disney would be incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into all of their magic. According to the report, the three California-based imagineers who applied for the patents were Clifford Wong, James Alexander Stark and Robert Scott Trowbridge, each of them true Makers behind the elaborate attractions at Disney’s theme parks.


One patent application cites a system in which marionettes or helium-filled balloons could be tethered to and controlled by a fleet of synchronized drones, instead of the traditional puppeteer or handler on the ground. “The inventors recognized that presently there are no mechanisms for creating very large aerial displays such as a display that is reusable/repeatable, dynamic, and interactive,” the patent explains. Can you imagine Aladdin perched atop a drone piloted flying carpet? Or, Dumbo crisscrossing the skies with his floppy ears supported by two UAVs? With these new patents on file, massive aerial balloons during Main Street USA parades could soon become a technology of the past.


“There remains a need for new technologies for generating aerial displays such as a display involving projection of light and images into or out of the sky or an air space above an audience of spectators,” another patent reads. Let’s face it, there’s nothing at Disney quite as magical as its renowned firework and light shows, an area in which could be enhanced through the use of UAVs.

According to Disney’s inventors, the drones would be used to light up with their own display screens, each acting as single pixels in a digital light show, flashing colors to mimic fireworks. Just think of even how more impressive Disney’s Fantasmic can get if these flying robots were involved!


Could drones improve park safety, entertainment value, and attendance? The answer is yet to be determined, but there is no doubt that Disney is willing to take to the skies to find out! Pending all goes well, you may soon find a giant-sized Mickey or Nemo flying through the parks.

Embodying DIY spirit to the max, Disney’s imagineers are no strangers to using complex machinery to create spectacles. In fact, Disney is the Presenting Sponsor of the upcoming World Maker Faire in New York, and we are proud to be featured alongside the creative corporation as a Silversmith Sponsor at this year’s event.

It’s a bird.. It’s a plane… No, it’s a Google drone!

Google’s top research laboratory is hard at work developing a fleet of drones that will be able to take to the skies to deliver packages to consumers’ front steps. The Mountain View, California-based company is the latest to announce the testing of delivery drones, following the likes of Amazon, UPS and Domino’s Pizza.


The project is being developed at Google X, the company’s clandestine tech research arm, which is also responsible for its self-driving car. Project Wing has been running for two years, but was kept secret until now. Google said a 5-foot-wide single-wing prototype had carried supplies including candy bars, dog treats, cattle vaccines, water and radios to farmers in Queensland, Australia earlier this month.

Standing at 2.5-feet-tall and boasting four propellers that move into different positions for different stages of flight, packages are placed into an opening located in the middle of the wing. The company said that its long-term goal was to develop drones that could be used for disaster relief by delivering items such as medicines and batteries to folks in areas that conventional vehicles cannot reach.

“Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,” explained Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots – Google X’s name for big-thinking projects.

Google began working on drones in 2011 and said it expected it would “take years to develop a service with multiple vehicles flying multiple deliveries per day,” the Wall Street Journal writes. While the technology may be ready, the legal logistics may not be. The FAA has mostly outlawed the commercial use of drones, reserving the rights to fly these unmanned vehicles to hobbyists and researchers.

Though you may not receive a drone-delivered package this year, that may soon all change. A number of companies, including Amazon, 3D Robotics, Parrot and DJI Innovations, recently came together to devise a UAV coalition in hopes of facilitating development.


“Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods, including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what’s possible today,” Google notes.

Google hopes the helicopter-like vehicles will be able to drop-off items generally weighing less than 5 pounds within a 10-mile radius of its warehouses in about 30 minutes, with visions that the drones will fly programmed routes at altitudes of 130 feet to 200 feet with the push of a button.

Expedited, more efficient delivery is just one of many applications UAVs could offer society. In fact, according to ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris 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.

In the future with a global drone fleet, Google anticipates that it will be able to convey goods to consumers on the same day an order was placed. Talk about speedy delivery!

Drones are now being used to inspect bridge damage

According to a recent report from the White House Administration, one in four bridges in the United States is in dire need of significant repair or cannot handle automobile traffic. Typically, when bridges are inspected for defects, such as cracks, engineers must use hanging scaffold systems or view them from elevated platforms. It’s a slow, dangerous, expensive process and even the most experienced engineers can overlook cracks in the structure or other critical deficiencies. However, Tuft University engineers are employing wireless sensors and drones that may soon be able to examine the condition of bridges in a quicker, more efficient manner.

35W bridge collapse TLR1

Led by assistant professors Babak Moaveni and Usman Khan, the Tufts University team is developing a detection system using smart sensors that are permanently attached to bridge beams and joins. Each sensor can continuously record vibrations and process the recorded signals; furthermore, any changes in the vibration response can signify damage, Moaveni explained. A wireless system would then use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to hover near the sensors and collect data while taking visual images of bridge conditions. These quadcopters would transmit data to a central collection point for analysis. According to Tufts, Khan was recently awarded $400,000 award from the National Science Foundation to explore this technology, which requires addressing significant navigational and communications challenges before it could be a reliable inspection tool.

Five years ago, Moaveni installed a series of 10 wired sensors on a 145-foot-long footbridge on the Tufts Medford/Somerville campus. These sensors measured vibrations that passed through the bridge, caused by people walking across it. In 2011, Moaveni added nearly 5,000 pounds of concrete weights on the bridge deck to simulate the effects of damage on the bridge — a load well within the bridge’s limits. Connected by cables, the sensors recorded readings on vibration levels as pedestrians walked across the span before and after installation of the concrete blocks. Tufts notes that from the changes in vibration measurements, Moaveni and his research team could successfully identify the simulated damage on the bridge, validating his vibration-based monitoring framework.

The scientists are currently working on a way of scaling the system, in hopes that it could be applied to larger, car-carrying bridges. A major goal of his research, Moaveni says, is to develop computer algorithms that can automatically detect damage in a bridge from the changes in its vibration measurements. According to Moaveni, the system should already be capable of detecting severe damage, but still needs some tweaking before it can pick up on more subtle defects. “Right now, if a bridge has severe damage, we’re pretty confident we can detect that accurately. The challenge is building the system so it picks up small, less obvious anomalies.”

This isn’t the first time a drone has been used to examine the condition of fatigued bridges. Back in 2011, a team of architects used a remote-controlled aircraft to survey the 500-year-old Stirling Bridge in Scotland and assess what repair work needed to be done. From agriculture to real estate, there are countless ways these flying apparatuses will soon, if not already, revolutionize the world around us.


Drone leaders form small UAV coalition

Amazon is going on the offensive as it seeks federal approval to test its planned Prime Air drone delivery system, USA Today reports. Though you may not receive a drone-delivered package this year, the online retailer is making moves to spur development.

To facilitate drone use, Amazon recently came together with several makers of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create a coalition. Writing for USA Today, Mike Snider explains that such efforts are necessary given the fact that the advancement of commercial drones spans across several federal agencies including the FAA, which governs airspace, and the FCC, with oversight of communications frequencies drones would use. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also has rules in the works regarding privacy.


“Amazon Prime Air is participating in several groups… that share Congress’ goal of getting small UAVs flying commercially in the United States safely and soon,” said Paul Misener, Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy.

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 ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris 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 on TIME Magazine’s website on July 29th, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.”

“This is uncharted territory,” says Anderson, Co-Founder of 3D Robotics. His firm recently announced that it had joined Amazon, Aerialtronics, AirwareDJI InnovationsGoogle[x]GoPro and Parrot in founding the small UAV coalition, which aspires to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology. “They [Amazon] have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving.” Anderson added that companies need a “safe sandbox” to begin testing applications.


Globally, drone spending is expected to increase from $6.4 billion this year to $11.5 billion annually a decade from now, as projected by aerospace and defense industry research firm the Teal Group. Both Amazon and the new coalition have retained Washington, D.C. law firm Akin Gump to assist in lobbying efforts. The online retail giant is already among two dozen other companies that have sought exemptions from the FAA to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet, USA Today reveals.

In its filing to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries. Its goal is to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via the rotor-powered flying machines. “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks,” wrote Amazon’s v Misener in the filing.


“A number of companies are looking at getting into philanthropic purposes,” explains Michael Drobac, one of the lobbyists at Akin Gump. “They’re also looking at recreational uses, mapping and aerial photography — the possibilities are limitless.”

Drone potential goes far beyond package delivery; in fact, we recently listed 18 amazing ways the aerial vehicles are already being used today. Interested in learning more about drone use and the formation of the coalition? Read the entire USA Today article here.



18 awesome ways drones are being used today

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 tend to pose security and privacy concerns to several people. When, however, unmanned aerial vehicles (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 ex-Wired editor and 3D Robotics CEO Chris 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, recently shared her love for UAVs in an essay that appeared on TIME Magazine’s website on July 29th, writing that drones could be “a useful tool.” So without further ado, let’s take a look at just some of the many ways these flying apparatuses are already revolutionizing the world around us.

1. Farming is tough, and drones are making it easier. With their aerial abilities, farmers can now see if their irrigation systems are working, how their crops are growing, even see if any of the plants are sick by using infrared technology. This enables farmers to make critical decisions about where and when to fertilize, plant or water. Though these observations and improvements may only equate to cents per acre, when practiced over thousands of acres, that can translate into much greater amounts.

2. Going to Hollywood! UAVs have already been adapted by a number of film makers looking to capture more innovative shots with less limitations. Think about it, drones are enabling creators to achieve the effects that would otherwise require wires, spider cam rigs, dollies, cranes, and crane operators. “You can innovate in a number of different, interesting ways to shoot a scene [using unmanned aircraft],” Howard Gantman of the Motion Picture Association of America recently recently urged the FAA.

3. Capturing the beauties life has to offer. Given its aerial abilities, drones have been able to capture things in ways never before seen. The result? Something truly breathtaking. Take for instance, Dave Anderson. The charter captain runs whale-watching charters out of Dana Point, California. He recently used a small camera-equipped drone to capture video of a “mega-pod” of hundreds of common dolphins as well as three gray whale migrating off the coast of San Clemente. In a separate venture, the drone returned footage of a family of humpback whales off of Maui. Then, there’s Nashville entrepreneur Robert Hartline, who decided to capture the city’s 4th of July fireworks show from the air using a drone-and-camera apparatus.

4. Trying to sell your house? Drones can help. Once reserved for luxury-home listings, aerial photos and videos are popping up in ads for moderately priced places, thanks to the use of relatively inexpensive drones — a method that grown incredibly popular throughout California, where the hills, beaches, water and vineyards can enhance even the most mundane home. Move over still photos and open houses, the next real estate listing may be accompanied by a drone tour.

5. Weaving high-rise structures: A team of researchers at ETH Zurich recently programmed drones to build and weave high-rise structures. While the test was relatively simple, the idea of choreographing drones to act as aerial construction workers is pretty fascinating. In spider-like fashion, the drone spools cable behind it as it zips between supports. It is weaving a structure high above where ordinary building equipment can easily reach. The team is also teaching drones to build towers from foam bricks. “There is no physical connection with the ground, so they can move construction elements to any location, and fly in and around existing structures,” explained Federico Augugliaro of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich.

6. Covering the news. When it comes to reporting, there’s nothing more important than catching the action as it happens. In what may become the next trend in journalism, students across the country are already learning how drones could help them be better reporters, and some reporters have already begun using UAVs to capture the day’s news.

7. Putting out wildfires. Drones are becoming an incredibly useful tool for firefighters, especially those who have the seemingly impossible task of putting out wildfires. Not only are the aircrafts being used to spot the fire and tracking its movement, but they can actually fight fires as well, ultimately keeping people out of harm’s way. Take for instance 2007′s Southern California wildfires, UAVs equipped with infrared sensors penetrated walls of smoke to relay information about the size of the blaze. After Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, the Air Force dispatched its “Global Hawk” drone to map the damage in Port-Au-Prince so NGOs could establish target areas for their relief work. And even more recently, drones were deployed after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Unlike helicopters, which can take up to an hour to arrive on the scene and gather information, drones are operational within three minutes.

8. Preventing endangered species. Tracking endangered is not an easy feat; however, with its unparalleled aerial abilities, drones may become the next tool in preventing poaching. Take for instance the team of Indonesian scientists, who have been using drones to keep track of a population of endangered Sumatran orangutans by floating above the treetops and watching how the apes are dealing with deforestation.

9. Saving the world. From authorities potting environmental violations to the EPA testing air quality, a wide range of scientists are using drones to keep tabs of the environment. NASA is even using drones to test the makeup of the ozone. Drones used for environmental monitoring is already the topic of many an academic paper, and the trend is only supposed to get more popular. Even in Italy, drones have been used to monitor illegal dumping for years.

10. Saving lives, too. A graduate student from Austria recently took life-saving equipment to the next level. Stefen Riegebauer devised a system whereby drones could deliver defibrillators to heart attack victims much faster than it would take an ambulance to get there. UAVs can prove to be an asset in time-critical situations, such as ski patrollers using beacons on small drones to search for buried avalanche victims.

11. Helping in disaster relief. “Drones don’t just end human life, they also save it,” tech journalist Matthew Harwood previously told Security Management Magazine. As extreme weather becomes increasingly severe, technology will play a critical role in monitoring and response and the Air Force, NASA, and several NGOs all agree that drones are becoming indispensable in disaster relief operations. Natural disasters and other times of emergency call for timely distribution of medication and aid. Fortunately, drones can make this more efficient. A company called Matternet is using drones to drop food and drugs right where they’re needed in remote African villages. Drones have the ability to ensure access to basic needs in places where roads become impassable in rainy seasons, or where they might not exist at all.

12. Getting into the sports action. Not only is it entertaining to watch games from above, it also can provide coaches a unique and valuable perspective on how their players are doing. Sports teams are already doing just that, using the UAVs to develop everything from game strategy to analyzing athlete performance. Drones have even made an appearance at the Olympics, where they were used to film ski and snowboarding events in Sochi.

13. Fighting crime in the neighborhood. Police departments across the country are buying drones that they can use for surveillance and other protection-related activities. Even the FBI is using them.

14. Inspecting oil rigs. Offshore oil rigs are notoriously tough to maintain, which as we know can be potentially dangerous. Given their ability to fly into hard-to-reach places, UAVs are able to better monitor oil fields and pipelines, which can be vast and tough for a human to track.

15. Creating art. Graffiti artist KATSU recently devised abstract paintings using drones with spray cans.

16. We’re going to finish the article, but first let us take a selfie drone…

17. Delivering pizza: Domino’s Pizza recently turned some heads and opened up some eyes when they posted a video of a drone delivering a pizza. The idea was that drones could get the pizza to your house faster so it would be hotter and more delicious.

18. Delivering other things, too. The easiest way to order the shopping is to simply load up a shopping app for next-day delivery, but drones mean you could end up having items the same day. That brings us back to Amazon and its plan to deliver your purchases with drones. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, “It will work and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.” UPS followed suit this week and revealed that they, too, were working on a drone delivery system. Will it work? China has already gotten into the drone-delivery game with  Shenzhen-based courier service, SF Express.

So, as you can see, as drones continue to become more affordable, accessible and easier to use, we can expect a future that’ll be both autonomous and airborne.

3D printer drones will take to skies by 2040

According to BAE Systems, 3D printers could be so advanced by 2040 that they would have the ability to create unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during a mission.


Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems anticipate such advances in both 3D printing and drone technologies that in the relatively near future, military aircraft could come equipped with onboard 3D printers to produce various types of drones on-demand. Possessing these capabilities, this would make for a highly versatile task-force with a primary aircraft deployed and then able to manufacture a fleet of smaller, purpose-built vehicles depending on a particular situation.

“You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things. You can manufacture the products and whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there, which means you can also start to support other platforms such as ships and aircraft carriers,” said BAE’s Mike Murray.

As Gizmag notes, there have been some notable creations at the intersection of drones and 3D printing throughout recent years, ranging from engineers at the University of Southampton developing the world’s first printed aircraft back in 2011 to a minimalistic UAV that can be printed and launched within a day.

BAE Systems concept designs

“Of course we don’t know exactly what sorts of aircraft technologies will be used in 2040 with any certainty, but it’s great to be able to show the public some concepts that might be possible through projecting where today’s technology could get to,” explained Nick Colosimo, BAE Systems’ Futurist and Engineering Manager.

Aside from the specialized drone production, the firm has unveiled three other next-gen aircraft technologies, including parts that can heal themselves in minutes, a new type of long range aircraft which divides into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its destination, and a directed energy weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light, destroy them and protect the people below.