As of Aug. 29, the Federal Aviation Administration, following years of deliberation, enacted new regulations that allow for the use of unmanned aircraft in commercial operations.
The ink had barely dried on the signature block at the bottom of those regulations before all manner of business and public service ideas utilizing drones began to shape up.
One of the most recent ideas taking shape is happening in New York City where the Fire Department Of New York said it would soon begin deploying a drone to 2-alarm or greater fires according to The New York Times.
The drones will deliver video and infrared images to commanders on the ground. The department said 2 or more drones would be added by the end of this year.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said, "That tool for a chief is just night and day from what it was not just 30 years ago when I started, but 15 years ago."
On the lighter, commercial side, Google parent Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGA) said it would use drones to deliver Chipotle (NYSE:CMGB) burritos to staff and students at Virginia Tech as early as this month.
The drones, from Alphabet’s research lab, X, will fly food from a food truck several hundred feet away to an official who will distribute to customers. This system, admittedly more about publicity than practicality could lead to more widespread use of drones for small package delivery.
Alphabet is not the most famous potential user of drones for delivery. That honor goes to Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZNC) creator of Amazon Prime Air which the company says will eventually deliver packages weighing 5 pounds or less in 30 minutes utilizing drone aircraft.
Current FAA rules preclude flights beyond the sight of operators, making Amazon’s planned delivery system impossible under present guidelines. Most experts believe it will be years before Amazon package delivery by drone will become a reality.
One of the big concerns about thousands of drones flying overhead is the injury they could cause if they fall from the sky. Sea or underwater based drones would eliminate falling as an issue.
Recently, as Hermine moved northward up the East Coast, scientists deployed several yellow-winged torpedo shaped drones to measure water temperature, salinity and density before, during and after the storm.
Continuing with the water theme, but in a more recreational mode, surfing enthusiasts may have discovered that the Freefly Alta 8 drone (list price $17,500) is powerful enough to drag a surfer across open water.
There’s been discussion about whether the video posted by the drone maker is legitimate. If it is, a whole, albeit expensive, water sport may have just been born.
Goldman Sachs estimates the potential market for drones is $100 billion. PricewaterhouseCoopers pegs the future value at $127 billion.
With that kind of money hanging in the balance, investors can rest assured there will be opportunities to grab hold of the brass ring attached to more than one savvy tech company dealing in drones.
Aside from the obvious big players like Alphabet and Amazon.com, others could include high-definition video experts like Ambarella Inc. (NASDAQ:AMBAB) and GoPro Inc. (TSX:GPROC) who may excel at one thing drone users generally need – high quality video.
InvenSense Inc. (:INVNN/A), while not a drone maker per se will have an important role since the company’s motion sensors, which monitor movement, acceleration, and rotation in three dimensions are critical to keeping drones upright.