Drones for Good

Drones are thought of as hunter/killers.

Drones are thought of as hunter/killers.

Drones have for quite some time, and largely due to the U.S. Government’s very public use, have been designated in our mass social consciousness as hunters or killers. Look at the image above. I created it as part of a presentation regarding the growth and proliferation of drones as well as the hurdles which stand in the way of progress. Within that image there are two very clear messages. Firstly, the Predator, fully weapons capable ready for launch. The second was taken from the movie, Minority Report; the particular scene depicted involved several spider-style robotic assistants, used by the police, to track down the main character who was in hinding. These two images play deeply upon our primal fears; the fear of an unknown threat and the inability to escape. Neither are good.

The reason I bring these images up is because most people don’t realize that Congress has told the FAA to create a roadmap for the deployment of drones in our National Airspace by 2015. This is a pivotal move by our government on multiple levels. From my limited perspective, I see the introduction of a whole new industry (which is predicted to grow to an $80 Billion industry [yes with a B] by 2020. This directive was outlined in the Reauthorization act released on January 3rd 2012. And while the the September 30th 2015 deadline looms nigh, little has been done by the Government or Media to address the aforementioned fears.

This is quite a problem as many Counties in various States have gone so far as to create laws and incentives to ban and take down drones that are already airborne. I can’t remember where, but I read of one instance where a reward was offered to anyone showing proof of a downed drone with US Government markings, IN THE USA!! Why? Fear.

Maybe I’m a bit idealistic but while I can imagine a menagerie of various doom and gloom scenarios, I see the future of Drones to be a mostly good thing. What is really needed is a massive push to rewrite the history of Drones in the 21st Century and some are already doing this.

I got the idea that Drones could be used for good in the last year. You see my mother passed earlier this year, but not without multiple long stints in the hospital beforehand. My mother was a very mentally adept and active woman. We talked at length about how frustrated she would be having to sit at home or in the hospital bed for days, and while she was capable of walking slowly and at times in need of help, the rest world was so inaccessible that it saddened her more than the illness. The problem was that her mind was always active, capable of doing so much more than she was physically.

I could empathize with this from the beginning. I’m my mother’s son after all and I too have an active mind and my inability to move, interact and do what I want at anytime would be tantamount to death for me.

The designer in me instantly saw a need that could be filled. There are tons of people out there that have it far worse than she did. They maybe paralyzed, in vegetative states and stuck, with full active minds, incapable of utilizing them or interacting with others. I began to realize that a series of drones with a simple interface could give the ability to those hospitalized the ability to explore the world, even see it from a new perspective, stimulating their minds and creating a healthier and happier experience for them.

Since, I’ve looked in to this quite a bit and though my mom has passed, I still want to pursue this as a usage scenario for my future creations. Tonight I discovered I’m not the only one.

This man both inspires me and echos the very same things I had been speaking with my mom about. We need more solutions for humanity and I think drones can be part of the fix.

Others see that the future of drones can be used for good as well. Recently the ‘Drone User Group Network’ (http://www.dugn.org/) announced the creation of the first award for creating positive social impact with Drones. From their site:

The Drone User Group Network’s Drone Social Impact Award is a $5,000 prize* for the most socially beneficial, documented use of a drone platform costing less than $3,000. Through this prize we hope to spur innovation, investment, and attention to the positive role this technology can play in our society. We believe that flying robots are a technology with tremendous potential to make our world a better place, and we are excited that they are cheap and accessible enough that regular people and community groups can have their own.



RTS Labs out of Teheran has been working on a life-saving drone capable of aiding people drowning on coastlines. The fast lifeguard can reach a drowning swimmer in 91 seconds (all variable based on conditions and distance from the shore), but given the same scenario, the drone is capable of achieving the same result in 22, it can also service multiple people in need near simultaneously whereas Lifeguards would be needed on a 1 to 1 basis. Check out their demonstration here:

And yet, other groups have been pushing the use of Drones for conservation and preservation of animals in the wild. Lian Pin Koh spoke at TED about he has been working in Nepal to utilize drones for protecting endangered species and fending off poachers:

And even still, various groups such as Equusearch have been using Drones for Search and Rescue:

Innovations such as these show that Drones don’t have to be forever associated with killing or hunting down your fellow man or animal, but as a means to empower and save as well. I encourage whomever maybe reading this to think about some uses and application for Drones which help, rather than hurt, and maybe we can change the suggestion that the word ‘Drone,’ is a bad thing.


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