Here come the drones

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I’m fascinated by the game changing potential of unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV), from Uber’s self-driving car pilot in my hometown of Pittsburgh to Amazon’s use of package-delivering drones in the UK. The public sector is starting to take an active interest in drones as well, and two recent stories are encouraging.

The first broke last June, when FAA finalized regulations that make it easier to use drones for a variety of purposes. These regulations will almost certainly drive new private sector investment in drone applications which will eventually find their way into the public sector. The other story is an example of the government being on the leading edge of the UAV game.

USAID recently announced it was funding two exciting drone projects to combat the Zika virus as part of its grand challenge, which we covered on a recent episode of the Public Impact Podcast. One pilot, led by Vayu, will use drones to deliver critical supplies to remote areas affected by the virus and bring back lab samples for medical professionals to examine. The other pilot is notable for its “anti-cupid” attempt to use drones to release genetically modified mosquitoes that would mate with normal mosquitoes in an attempt to pass on a sterility gene to the offspring.

Ethical questions about genetic modification and species eradication aside, the WeRobotics project is fascinating science, and certainly a harbinger of future drone applications where the sky might no longer be the limit.

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Frank McNally
Director, Learning & Content Development
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