Are drones the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ of our western skies? Our review of drones and what their controllers get up to would suggest so. Drones aren’t just the latest craze for remote-control airplane hobbyists. Hell no. There’s a serious drone racing league, and a growing array of magazines (Drone Zone, Rotor Drone, RC Rotorworld) and websites (Drone Life, Droneality), all devoted to the weird, scary and wonderful life of drones and their users.
And drones aren’t just a hobby craze. They are a serious piece of kit being directed by users to do some really serious stuff. From military spyware and criminal activity to medical transport solutions for saving lives, drones are building a very mixed reputation.
Want to know more? Take a look at our fascinating facts and aerial tales about the weird, the scary and the wonderful flights of drones.
Experience drone days
If you are curious to find out what flying a drone involves, get yourself booked onto an experience day, such as those offered by Into The Blue. Drone flying courses will give you some hands-on experience and teach you all about the regulations you need to know to fly a drone in the UK, plus all about safety.
You’ll learn the intricacies of drone flying on a simulator before you are let loose with the real thing. Once you’re confident, you’ll get to pilot micro drones through hoops, and even graduate to a trickier bespoke racing course. Drone flying experience days are the perfect gift for anyone who has a passion for remote controlled toys.
The sport of the future
Drone racing began as an amateur sport in Australia in 2014. Since then drone racing leagues have been established in Australia, France the US and the UK. Now being dubbed the ‘sport of the future’ drone racing is a serious sport with serious World Championship events (The Allianz 2017 World Championship Race took place at Alexandra Palace in the UK earlier this year).
The US’s Drone Racing League (DRL), established in 2015, has attracted the attention of Sky Sports, who have invested $1m (£760,000) in the league. The DLR has also signed broadcasting deals with ESPN in North America and 7Sports in Europe. A Sky spokesman spoke excitedly to The Guardian about the sports future, “It’s like a cross between Robot Wars and Red Bull air racing.” Audiences watch the live feed from the drones’ onboard cameras.
Scary near misses with aircraft
The Guardian recently reported, “Twenty-two incidents involving commercial airliners and possible drones were investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority’s Airprox Board in the first four months of this year. Police have not been able to trace the users of the drones.”
The UK government have deemed the possibility of a serious incident from a collision between a drone and an aircraft serious enough to warrant a study. The Mid-Air Collision Study concluded that although airliner windscreens are quite resistant to damage, there is still a risk of critical windscreen damage from drones of a certain weight (around 2kg) under certain impact conditions.
Dozens of near misses with aircraft have given the government cause to bring in new regulations for drone users. New rules dictate that owners of drones weighing more than 250g will have to register their details and demonstrate an understanding of the safety and privacy issues associated with drones. There’s even a ‘drone code’ in the UK, as recommended by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Weird warehouses in the sky
Last year, as reported in The Independent newspaper, Amazon filed a patent for a flying warehouse equipped with drones for the delivery of goods. The suggestion is for these to be located above festivals or sporting events! With so many safety considerations, it is not clear whether the patent is a plan for an actual project or just proof of the concept.
The shady side of drones
Drones are being used to deliver drugs and other contraband into prisons in the UK. Following a sharp increase in the use of drones to drop drugs and mobile phones into prisons in recent years, a new anti-drone squad has been policing prisons since earlier this year. The Independent reports that courts are cracking down with significant sentences being handed out to those caught.
A wonderful drone spectacle
Earlier this year Lady Gaga took centre stage at the 51st Super Bowl. Her performance featured a subliminal dig at Trump, a roof dive, and a spectacular drone show involving 300 flying devices. The 300 drones lit up the sky and transformed into the American Flag. Though the stunning drone show wasn’t live – it had been recorded earlier in the week for safety reasons.
Life-saving drones to the rescue
The centre for resuscitation science at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm carried out a simulated study into the use of drones to carry defibrillators to people suffering from cardiac arrest. The study found that drones carrying a defibrillator, which could be used by a member of the public, arrived 16 minutes quicker than the emergency services, saving precious time.
Cardiac arrest is one of the biggest killers in the western world, and every second is crucial in the timing for successful treatment and resuscitation. Speaking to The Guardian, Jacob Hollenberg, director of the centre for resuscitation science at the Karolinska Institute, said that every minute passing from collapse to defibrillation, decreases the chances of survival by 10 percent.
We bet you never knew drones could get up to so much! They really are the good, the bad and the ugly of our skies!
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