This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) displayed much of the latest in drone technology, from underwater Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to a selfie drone. But at NextGov’s “Drones for Good” event in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago, we got a little more insight into the future of drones in government.
The event explored the policy behind regulating this new technology as well as how drones may be used in the upcoming years to benefit citizens. It included topics such as search and rescue, medical supplies transport and yes, pizza delivery. Although drones often invoke thoughts of military operations, the latest high-tech gadgets for techies or even the budding drone delivery service market, NextGov was set on fostering conversation around the many different ways drones are and will be used for good. It essentially demonstrated how the government is using one of the most promising technologies of the 21st century to benefit various industries and communities.
Bringing together many government “techies” who are increasingly testing non-military drones for various programs and missions around the government, “Drone for Good” featured remarks by Mark Bathrick, Director of the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Aviation Services; Hoot Gibson, the Senior Advisor of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); and Robbie Hood, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program.
All speakers offered insights into the future of drone technology and discussed how they were using them to benefit society. Matt Scassero, Director of the University of Maryland UAS Test Site, explained how the University’s engineering school tests drones for medical deliveries and aids first responders. DOI’s Mark Bathrick then described how pilot optional helicopters are being used to fight wildfires and safely explore terrain that is too dangerous and costly for humans to enter. And, Robbie Hood discussed how NOAA uses low and high altitude UAS to fill the gaps in weather data. The agency hopes to utilize drones for weather data, tornado predictions, gravity measurements and other mapping uses with real-time data collected by drones.
The conference panel noted that the next area to watch for innovation will be in high altitude, near space uses, such as surveillance and communications. However, speakers noted the many hurdles to UAS adoption, including: sufficient sense and avoid technology, cybersecurity, culture, payload and data concerns.
NextGov has posted a nifty slideshow that highlights the many government uses of drones here: http://www.nextgov.com/cards/drones-good/.
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