We’re starting to see drones everywhere, but why, and why so many?
You’d think that a place called Santa Claus, Indiana would have flying sleigh races.
Instead, they have drone races. Which is still cool, though admittedly far less magical.
Unless you count things like fun and happiness for all ages as magic, in which case Santa Claus, Indiana had a pretty wonderful day recently. The town held its first ever Drone Fest, a festival dedicated to the art and hobby of flying drones–with a few competitive drone races on the side.
And, Indiana isn’t alone in celebrating our little utilitarian toys of tomorrow; it seems like everywhere someone is discovering how to either introduce drones into their pastime or use them to create a new pastime entirely.
And honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised.
This is the same kind of trend that we’ve seen in consumer technology for decades now, going all the way back to the boob tube which put the radio in last place.
People are accepting drones as a part of everyday life, and with that acceptance comes their integration into society.
The drone industry seems to be regulating itself, just like the video game industry did, and we all know how big that has become.
All of this spells a good future for the integration of drones into modern society, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.Professional drone pilots competed in drone races at Drone Fest in Santa Claus, Indiana.Click To Tweet
The first step always centers around demand, or in other words, let’s take a look at why people are starting to like drones so much in the first place.
“What I tell people a lot, is if you’ve ever played Xbox or PlayStation before,” said Aaron Begle of videography company Hele Productions, “then you can fly a drone.”
Because Drone Races are fun
When you call something a festival, you have a lot of explaining to do if the activity isn’t some kind of celebration.
And it’s about time, in my opinion, that we get some shining examples of the more benign uses of drone technology.
One of our themes here at Edgy Labs is that technology in itself is not good or bad; instead, how technology is used determines its overall utility. Drones are shaping up to be an excellent example of our mantra.
For example, it’s no secret that drones got their start in the military as “remote-piloted aircraft systems” and “unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles”.
The phrase “drone strike” conjures images of targeted, utter devastation in the Afghan and Pakistani countryside, but not every drone is meant to do harm.
In fact, some drones are now being used to identify noncombatants in military action. In emergency search and rescue, they’re being used to spot people in need of help, as we have reported here at Edgy Labs.
So why not celebrate how they can be fun?
Why not set up ridiculously difficult obstacle courses for professional drone races? Why not harass your neighbor’s cat with them? Why not lift a man 1,000 feet into the air and drop him from it? No seriously, that last one actually happened.
My point here is basically that people are starting to find the fun in drones, and that means that for all the bad reputation military drones may have, commercial drones are their domesticated counterparts.
People are starting to get used to them, just like they did with movies and video games as a new form of media when they became possible.
The Community is Learning, and They Want More
The big, scary missile drone is flying out of the public eye, and look no further than Santa Claus for proof of that.
The Drone Fest is a good example that shows society-at-large wanting to learn more about drones, and the more you know the less you fear.
It’s easy, too.
Instead of comparing drones to weapons, think of them as your favorite toy.
China is on the right track with this one as well.
Their “Made in China 2025” initiative shows that the Chinese government is ready to do its part to get its people ready for the future, and that means providing education as well as promising all the benefits that widespread acceptance of modern technology can bring.
With all the changes going on in the People’s Republic, it is imperative that the Chinese population ready themselves for the rapid and dramatic change in various industries, and kudos to China for being apparently ready for that change (after all, we did list this at #5 in our list of ways that China is closing the automation gap).
If the drone races at Drone Fest in Indiana weren’t a clear enough indication that people diligently hone their drone-piloting craft, you will also find plenty of drone training centers in the U.S.
For example, take a look over at Kalispell, Montana, where Bird’s Eye of Big Sky is holding a drone clinic to train prospective pilots.
Dubbed “Pilot EQ“, the program intends to teach enthusiasts how to “pilot intelligently,” which is a pretty noble goal considering the fact that the future may have many jobs for those who can gracefully handle a drone.
After all, the Navy now has more jobs for drone pilots than traditional pilots.
There may not be an augmented reality multiplayer game for drones like Pokémon Go, which made the idea of AR commonplace to the point of no longer being a novel concept, but that doesn’t mean that the drone-flying community isn’t doing their part.
You just have to know where to look.
Or, if your legs are tired, you can just tape your phone to a drone and have it catch the rare Pokémon for you. The following video is *NSFW.*
And since knowing is half the battle (at least, if the advice I got from G.I. Joe as a kid was worth anything), let’s look into the past few decades at an industry that avoided a lot of government influence by looking within.
Remember the Video Game Industry
I said that I’d be getting back to this point, didn’t I?
Back in the 90s, the video game industry was at a crossroads.
Yes, it was becoming huge in both profit margins and cultural relevance.
But back then, entertainment success often meant a trail of angry parents; E-mails to developers were written as though they were early 20th century petitions for human rights.
To avoid outside interference, industries look to self-regulation, such as the Comics Code Authority of 1954, or more pertinently, the ESRB rating that is still used for games today.
See, the video game industry didn’t want its growth curtailed, but with the rising age of their consumer-base, they saw the need to have more risky and mature entertainment experiences available for the public.
The ESRB was created so that the industry could keep control of the kind of content they would release.
Without the ESRB, video games may have been regulated into remaining only a child’s toy, or the entire hobby could have died out within years, but the introduction of the rating system helped garner acceptance from the community and beyond.
It was simple: if a game said “TEEN,” then parents of 8-year olds could confidently say, “no,” five-hundred times while walking through Best Buy.
And that’s what the drone industry is doing today.
Luckily for the industry, they aren’t starting off as a child’s toy, so drone-acceptance is going to help smooth out a lot of kinks that we’ve seen in modernized societies during Industry 4.0 and the push for greener industrial practices.
For example, the push for green energy during the Obama Administration has led to a decline in coal-related jobs in the U.S., and despite being on the opposite end of the political spectrum from his direct predecessor, President Trump is unlikely to turn around the availability of coal jobs without a lot of time and effort.
In the meantime, drone clinics like those offered by Bird’s Eye are helping people prepare for jobs that are popping up for the first time. Not everyone can compete in drone races, but they might be able to create a successful marketing firm or save lives.
They may not solve our unemployment problems, but this trend of using drones to introduce new jobs into the economy is a great sign for drone pilots everywhere.
And, it wouldn’t be possible if the drone-flying community weren’t so active in informing and educating the general public about what they do, how they do it, and how much the industry can profit everyone.