The Need for “Anti-Drone” Technology

Where are we now?

2017 is poised to be the best year for the drone industry yet. As a drone fanatic, I can’t wait until the day drone technology is ubiquitous and become so common it goes unnoticed. While we haven’t identified all the use cases and benefits drones have the potential to deliver to society, no one doubts the future potential of this market.

PwC believes the global drone market will be worth an astounding $127 bn by 2020. That’s right, $127 BILLION. To put that in perspective, that’s greater than the current gas utilities ($56 bn), transportation infrastructure ($22 bn), water utilities ($35 bn) and marine ($10 bn) industry here in the US combined!

2020 is only 2 2/3 years away, so to reach that projected growth the industry needs to take off now, and the building blocks are in place. Drones have moved beyond toys and weapons used by the military, consumer adoption of drones has been skyrocketing as of late but the biggest driver of growth by far will be adoption at the enterprise level.

What Could Go Right?

Industries including construction, insurance, real estate, mining and agriculture all have been early adopters of drones and have found effective and interesting ways to take full advantage of this technology. As time continues and the regulatory environment changes to promote commercial uses for drones, we are going to see the discovery of future use cases that lay outside of our imagination.

Picture a world where stepping outside of you house to shop for groceries, pick up a medication from the pharmacy, or get your mail is no longer necessary because a drone will be waiting at your doorsteps with your desired items. Well there’s no need to think too hard about what a drone delivery service would look like because that service is on its way, and it’s called Amazon Prime Air.

Amazon Prime Air on cloud 9

What Could Go Wrong?

The previous scenario may sound like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, but for the pessimist out there many may be wondering, what could go wrong? Well, honestly the answer is a lot. As drone technology becomes pervasive the possibility of overcrowded airways and malicious uses will inevitably increase as well. For example, in the UK drone complaints have nearly tripled in the last year as people report nosy neighbors using drones to spy on them and sophisticated burglars who use drones to scout homes before making a move. An even more present danger associated with overcrowded aerial space is a potential collision with an airplane. The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) reported there were 70 near-misses between planes and drones in 2016, which represents an astounding 141.4% increase over later year. One catastrophic event stemming from a drone plane collision could certainly derail all the progress being made in the industry and can permanently change the increasingly positive perception the public and lawmakers have of this promising technology.

What is the solution?

Drones may not have been created to invade people’s privacy, interfere with everyday life and be used in illegal and threat inducing ways, however these real consequences have created a need for “Anti-Drone” technology. We as a society cannot let drone users run rampant, fly where they please, when they please or do what they please if we want the drone industry to reach its maximum potential. As someone who wishes to see this industry prosper and deliver real benefits to humankind, we all must be cognizant of both the benefits and harm associated with this technology and create solutions to mitigate any risks. Fortunately, there are several startups working on interesting products that will allow this industry to flourish without sacrificing safety. Stay tuned next week when I’ll dive deeply into a promising startup that’s tackling this very issue.

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