Drones are becoming a growing and much-talked about segment among both consumers and businesses, with some forecasts suggesting the industry to be a major growth area by 2020. However, at present the technology is little more than a fad, with a small proportion of curious consumers and facing major legislative obstacles. There is opportunity to enter the market early, and long-term strategists such as Amazon and Google are likely already eyeing tech specialists in the field. With drones backed by mayor Boris Johnson recently as a solution to traffic-inducing delivery vans, London corporate finance could be navigating some investigative funds into the arena also.
Consumers most commonly use drones for taking arial photography or video. Many models come with attachments for high-resolution ‘action’ cameras like the hugely popular GoPro. They are using them for everything from wedding and holiday videos to recording footage of their sporting prowess and overhead selfies or ‘dronies’. In July 2014, Time magazine noted that “The new wave of hobbyists see their GoPro-equipped drones… as flying cameras, set to embark on a cinematic adventure… the point is getting awesome YouTube footage”. “This is the next step in the [social media] chess game,” Steve Cohen, a New Jersey photographer, drone hobbyist and organiser of the New York City Drone User Group told the New York Post newspaper in August 2014.
First-person view (FPV) is a fast-growing area. This involves flying a camera-equipped drone that transmits its video to a special pair of goggles that enables the user to see what the drone’s camera sees in real time. Drones are also being used by homeowners – to assess a damaged roof or (equipped with an infra-red camera) or energy efficiency, for example.
When it comes to drones, the regulatory environment can be something of a grey area. In the USA, it is legal to take an arial video of yourself using a drone, but it is illegal to pay someone to do it for you. The irresponsible use of drones (near airports, for example) could lead to a crackdown. In December 2014, it was reported that a near miss between a drone and an aircraft landing at Heathrow airport in London was under investigation. Regulator the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) gave the incident an ‘A’ rating – meaning that there had been “a serious risk of collision”. Apart from accidents, governments are worried about the potential security risks posed by drones. During late 2014, a series of mysterious drone flights over a number of nuclear power stations unnerved the French government;
Drones have also been used to inflame political tensions: In October 2014, an international football match between Albania and Serbia held in Belgrade had to be abandoned after a drone carrying a flag emblazoned with the insignia of ‘Greater Albania’ (a reference to Kosovo – an area with an Albanian-speaking majority that was formerly part of Serbia but is now independent) flew over the stadium, provoking an on-pitch brawl. Incidents like these may lead governments to regulate the use of drones more tightly. Some have even called for the use of drones to be restricted to those with a pilot’s license
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