I’ve always been a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to technology.
I think it began back in the ’50s when my family was one of the last in my hometown to get a television set.
Then, ever cautious, I took my sweet time getting such technological newbies as cable TV, a personal computer, a cell phone. Smart phone? I still don’t have one of those.
I also never thought 24-hour news and sports and weather channels had a chance. Remarkably prescient, huh?
Never miss a local story.
So anyway, I was in a big-box store the other day and noticed for the first time that it was selling personal drones – the latest high-tech innovation that I will never enjoy.
The slightest bit of research told me just how far behind I am.
A company called Gartner estimates some $2.3 billion in sales of personal unmanned aviation vehicles (UAVs) in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration predicts that the country will see 3.18 million personal drones flying above us by next year. Other estimates say some 6 million drones will be airborne in 2020.
Those numbers rather boggle the mind.
Here’s what I knew about drones before this week:
1) They are good for dropping bombs on bad guys in foreign lands.
2) Amazon uses them to deliver some packages. (I think.)
After that, nothing.
So what do we want with personal drones, beyond flying them in an open field like so many toys. (Speaking of toys, I notice Toys “R” Us is selling drones for under $100. Hmmm.)
The prime uses of a personal UVA, I’m told, is for picture taking and video shooting.
Farmers, for instance, can use them to map their crops. Forest rangers can use drones to monitor wildfires in remote areas.
Drones can even help the news media cover breaking stories without the expense of a helicopter.
One enterprising best man employed his personal drone to deliver a wedding ring at the appointed hour. Turned out to be the highlight of the wedding.
The main uses for personal UVAs seem to be photography and videos – and that raises questions for those who worry about such niceties as civil liberties.
Could not drones be used by would-be peeping toms to spy on their neighbors? Some see that as a concern.
“Drones make it possible to invade privacy without even trespassing,” said Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The FAA, of course, has already devised a complex set of regulations regarding personal UVAs and you can bet the rules will become more stringent once millions more of these things are soaring above us.
Already it’s estimated that some 6 million drones will be in Americans’ hands by 2020 and after that, who knows. As they say, the sky’s the limit. Literally.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.