The Promise (and Pitfalls) of Drones

UPDATE January 28, 2015:

Interesting development after my original post below. TechCrunch is reporting that the maker of the drone that crashed into the White House lawn has developed and is providing a firmware update for its drone that will inhibit the craft from flying in certain places.

“The firmware update (via TheNextWeb) essentially just puts geographic restrictions in place that act as “no-fly zones,” adding a virtual barrier extending 25 kilometers from downtown D.C. in all directions and effectively blocking either take-off or even flying entry by a drone. National borders are included, too, to try to prevent DJI drones from being used for the kind of drug smuggling operation described above.

There are also 10,000 new airports added to the Phantom firmware’s no-fly list, which should prevent the consumer gadgets from getting in the way of air traffic and generally causing problems.”

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ORIGINAL POST January 27, 2015:

Drones. It seems they’re everywhere these days.

To say that drone use has proliferated over the last year or so would be an understatement, but it’s important to know how drones are being used, what value they bring, and what dangers they present as the technology advances at an ever increasing and rapid pace.

drone meth mexico
A drone carrying close to 6 pounds of meth crashed in a parking lot near the California – Mexico border.


Consider the potential of drones and the value add, first. In a recent article entitled, “Why Drones Are the Future of the Internet of Things,” Colin Snow, CEO and Founder of Drone Analyst, talked of the commercial use and applications for drones. “[I]n countries like England, Australia, and France, you will find them operating in energy, mining, mapping, and surveying companies – and quite a few government agencies like those responsible for transportation and infrastructure.”

“Drones are already beginning to efficiently replace [] connected sensors at rest with one device that is:

  1. deployable to different locations
  2. capable of carrying flexible payloads
  3. re-programmable in mission
  4. able to measure just about anything, anywhere”

drone IoT

Add to this the well-publicized (currently exploratory) use by Amazon of drone delivery and we can see clearly a horizon where drones populate the sky with increasing regularity in support of businesses and enterprises in a variety of verticals.

There are, of course, serious concerns about such ubiquitous drone use. Two events we learned about just this week serve to amplify those concerns:

  • A drug carrying drone crashed in a Mexican parking lot near the California border on January 20; and
  • Yesterday, January 26, a small drone  (too small to be detected by radar) crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House.
drones NYT
A drone, which was about two feet in diameter and weighed about two pounds, crashed into the White House lawn.


In the latter of the two instances, the drone ‘pilot’ was apparently drunk and not intent on malfeasance; the former event, of course, represents a much more dangerous development in the form of a new delivery vehicle for illegal drug runners intent on selling their wares in the United States.

In short, it would certainly seem that drones do have their uses, some for entertainment, some for business and some, of course, for our military. At the same time, however, drones have clearly now become a security issue, and whether it be through regulation or technology advances or perhaps a combination of both, efforts will have to be made to protect both privacy and person in a future of sky-filled drones.

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