The “Drone Age” is Upon Us

By: Chris Long

Five years ago, the thought that something ordered online could be delivered to your front porch in under an hour was fantasy. The thought that overhead pictures of storm damage could be obtained with a device smaller than 10 square feet was fiction. The thought that an American flag could be made in the sky overhead downtown Houston during the Super Bowl Halftime show without the use of a green screen was obscure. But this is 2017, and the drone is now a part of daily American civilian life.

Drones were first used by the military, with the first US drone strike occurring in February 2002. To this day, drones continue to be used in the military, but it was only recently that the first commercial recreational drone was released to American civilians. In 2014, Amazon began looking into drones as a way to deliver packages to customers faster without the need to contract out to delivering companies. Since then, the popularity of drones has skyrocketed as hobby shops have begun to carry drones varying in size from 10 square inches to drones that are yards across and able to connect to wifi.

These little unmanned aircrafts might have received the most attention in recent memory  when they made an appearance on the Super Bowl halftime show with Lady Gaga. The drones created an American flag above the Houston skyline at the beginning of the performance when Lady Gaga was performing on the roof of NRG Stadium. These drones, 300 of them, were created by Intel just for visual light shows. Known as the Shooting Star, these aircrafts are small enough to sit in a person’s palm, with 4 mini-propellers surrounding a softball sized LED light. The LED can be configured to create 4 billion color combinations, and technology has allowed for computer software to control all of the drones at once. These drones have been used before, only outside of the United States. It took an exception by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly the drones over Houston for the Halftime show. Intel, though, hopes that the halftime show can be a catalyst for more light shows by these unmanned aircrafts in venues across the world.

Now, the future of drones can only progress from here. Amazon is still in the testing phases of what they call Amazon Air, but soon seeing a drone carrying a small package will be as normal as seeing a mail truck driving down the road.