Drone technology has a lot of untapped potential. Unfortunately, most Americans might only know about the unmanned aerial vehicles thanks to the U.S. government and its unconstitutional drone war.
In no time, however, both Amazon and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, took the spotlight, bringing people’s attention to how drone technology can be used for good — but only if the market is in control.
One of the most recent examples of how drone technology has been used by the private sector comes from AT&T.
In 2017, after Hurricane Maria ravaged through Puerto Rico, AT&T sent out drones known as Flying COWs (cell on wings) to the San Juan area, restoring cell service to 30 percent of the region.
At the time, a statement explained that the initiative had been the first of its kind.
“This is the first time an LTE cell site on a drone has been successfully deployed to connect residents after a disaster,” the company explained.
Now, startups are working on something new: long-range unmanned aircrafts that can deliver heavier cargo.
Following in the footsteps of companies like Amazon, which are actively developing drones that can deliver consumer goods, companies like Elroy Air are raising millions in seed funding to develop cargo drones that could be widely available by 2020.
This technology, known at the moment as Chaparral, could carry cargo as heavy as 500 pounds and be able to pick it up and deliver it within a 300-mile range.
This type of tech could revolutionize the market as we know it, especially as the country struggles with the delivery of goods thanks to the truck-driver and pilot shortage caused by heavy regulation. It could also help in humanitarian and charitable deliveries, helping independent groups drop food or other much-needed materials in dangerous, remote, or ruined areas hit by natural disasters.
“We want to be like the Ford F-150 of the sky,” Elroy Air CEO David Merrill told reporters. “We want to make it a trusty flexible platform that can be put to a lot of use cases.”
Like Elroy Air, Sabrewing is also trying to break all rules by developing a hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft capable of carrying two metric tons of cargo.
If the California-based company pulls this off, it could be carrying heavy cargo over much longer ranges than Elroy Air.
Sabrewing’s first big test flight is scheduled to happen in 2020, and it will consist of a smaller demonstrator drone that will fly nonstop from Japan to California.
But carrying goods isn’t the only way drone-technology developers are revolutionizing the industry. Other companies such as Lillium and Joby are also working on making drone tech work for the little guy by developing urban air taxis.
Raising about $100 million, the two startups are working on putting riders in their air taxis by 2025.
Once in operation, the system would work as an app-based service that would fly passengers from place A to place B within minutes at an initial cost of $36. For people on a hurry and on a budget, this could help them get to places more efficiently in an urban setting. It could also save lives, as having access to fast, reliable transportation could help patients.
“It’s moving forward very quickly,” Lilium’s head of product design Frank Stephenson told reporters. “We have said we will be in service in 2025, but that’s probably just to keep the press [off] our backs, because it’s going to be out much sooner than that.”
With the help of these drone cargo carriers, leaders of the freight-carrier industry such as Jim Martell, the owner of Salt Lake City, Utah-based Ameriflight, say that things could get better for everyone.
If Elroy could develop drones capable of carrying up to 2,500 pounds, he told reporters, he could replace 90 percent of his fleet of planes. That would cut costs considerably thanks to the drone technology’s fuel efficiency and the fact that it doesn’t require a pilot. In no time, the addition of the unmanned aerial vehicles to freight-carrier fleets would help to lower the price of consumer goods, helping the poorest among us as a result.
As you can see, the government may have tried to sour our relationship with drone technology. But as private enterprises develop the technology to be of use to all, it becomes clear that only the market is able to serve everyone well, transforming something stained thanks to the destruction carried out by bureaucrats into something truly beautiful.