Drone strategies

Thursday, October 20, 2016
by Cameron Shelley

This blog has documented many of the purposes for which drones have been used.  Sometimes, drones seem to be the best solution to a given problem.  Other times, drones seem to be the best solution in search of a problem.

Here are some more drone applications to ponder.

Amazon has recently received a patent on a number of applications for new, pocket-sized drones.  These drones are to be equipped with microphones so that they can be given verbal instructions by their owners.  Perhaps this means that Amazon's personal AI assistant Alexa will soon be hovering over many heads.

Here are some of the new design's potential uses:

  • Find lost children in crowds by using facial recognition software;
  • Locate your car for you in a parking lot;
  • Identify people stranded in wreckage, rubble, or burning buildings;
  • Follow getaway cars;
  • Record stunts and take "dronies".

In addition, Amazon imagines that a person's drone could serve as their bodyguard, flying above them recording them and thus discouraging others from attacking.  As Jane Jacobs might say, "drones on the street" will keep people safe.

Many of these applications sound like attempts to make constant surveillance by Amazon appear like a public service.

In any event, perhaps a personal body-drone will become a necessity when evil-doers are also armed with drones.  The terrorist group ISIS has apparently started attacking its opponents with drones wired with explosives:

  • "On October 2, Peshmerga fighters operating against ISIS near Erbil, Iraq, shot down a small hobby drone, the kind you might buy off of Amazon. But when they investigated the downed device, it exploded, killing them and injuring two French paratroopers, based out of Orleans, according to Le Monde. With that unfortunate blast, it is believed, ISIS claimed its first casualties via a weaponized hobby drone."

The US military has anticipated this sort of development and is exploring ways of responding.

Earlier this year, Uber used some drones to advertise its service to drivers in Mexico City.  It briefly had drones fly over traffic carrying little signs reading, "Driving alone? That is why you never see the volcanoes now."  The sign refers to the smog that obscures the view of several volcanoes in the region.

The point was to promote use of UberPOOL, Uber's carpooling service.  As a marketing ploy, one problem with the maneuver is that it seems to involve shaming of potential customers, laying blame on drivers for the City's copious smog.  Although there may be merit in this implication, it hardly seems like a way to give drivers a positive impression of this new transportation alternative.

In logistical terms, flying low over heavy traffic seems ill-advised.  If one of the drones had flown into a car, then the headlines might be considerably worse.

When should we look to drones for assistance and protection?  When should we be protected from them?  It seems that these questions are becoming more and more urgent.

Courtesy of "Say it with drones"/Youtube.