In the last couple of years there has been an explosion in activity in the drone market. Once primarily the domain of the military, drone technology is now on the verge of becoming commonplace in society. With the rapid advancement of any technology comes equal amounts of fear and possibility. Are we under attack or are we about to witness the next great technology revolution?
The drone industry is expected to be worth US$126B over the next 3-5 years, with 70,000 new jobs created in the US alone. Significant investment will be seen in the areas of infrastructure and agriculture. How can the HigherEd sector take advantage of this opportunity? I predict, that within the next 3 years, marine, agriculture, journalism and even paramedicine degrees will have course content associated with drone technology. In fact, we may even see new degree courses established in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. We are already seeing an increase in commercial operators within Australia, with only 10 operators in 2010, there were 537 operators as of August 2016.
So what are the societal costs and the associated risks? With drones increasingly being used in all manner of sport, leisure, commercial and government activities, their proliferation requires both oversite & regulation, particularly in the areas of physical safety and privacy. Further assimilation of drones into society will require careful deliberation to ensure the establishment of appropriate legislation. Will legislation keep up or will it stifle innovation? Only the future will tell.