If you live in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan or numerous other countries in the region, drones don’t conjure up feelings of comfort and the wonder that is technology. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have a habit of raining down unseen death on both the deserving and the innocent. If you work for the ACLU or other privacy advocate group, you may see drones as the end of privacy as we know it and the perfect platform for illegal surveillance. If you smoke a lot of dope and live in San Francisco you may see drones as the perfect delivery device for tacos and you don’t have to tip a drone.
Whatever your personal feeling on drones may be, they are coming and they are coming soon. Congress has set Sept. 30, 2015, as the Federal Aviation Administration’s target date to safely integrate UAVs into the national airspace. The agency estimates as many as 7,500 drones could be in commercial use over U.S. towns and cities within five years. Privacy advocates are not off their rockers when it comes to drones, as more than half of this estimated number will be in the hands of law enforcement groups.
Others might worry about the safety of that many drones, and that number is only a drop in the bucket if you look at predictions for drone use in ten years—but drones can be safe.
“We recognize that the increasing use of unmanned aircraft does provide privacy concerns, and those concerns need to be addressed,” an FAA representative said. “But we’ve been integrating new technology into the airspace for more than 50 years, and we expect to be able to do the same thing with unmanned aircraft.”
Airware, a Newport Beach, CA start-up, will announce today that it has secured $10.7 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures.
Airware does not produce its own drones but rather installs software into drones that will then support the hardware needed for the hundreds if not thousands of future drone uses. Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, said Airware is “sort of the Windows layer to drones.” Drone makers would be your Hewlitt-Packard and Dell.
Mr. Downey, the founder of Airware, said its technology will help drones fly autonomously and locate rhinos by tracking radio frequency tags on them. The company is also working on drones for skier search-and-rescue operations, vaccine delivery in remote parts of Africa and Southeast Asia and inspections of open-air mining operations in France.
See, drones aren’t all bad.