From the outside, the world of flying robots can seem complex, daunting and, in some cases, totally unnecessary.
But there’s more to this business than meets the eye, particularly if you’ve only previously come across drones because media outlets are blaming them for airport disruption.
Read on for our top four misconceptions about drone technology.
They are just toys
To start with, yes. Parrot’s original AR Drone was the first of its kind and was solely designed for fun.
But now, almost a decade later, things have come a long, long way.
For starters, all of the latest drones have a degree of altitude stability, intuitive controls and all sorts of safety features. These are advanced machines.
Safety features usually include return to home functions and predetermined limits on speed and altitude. Many of DJI’s drones can also sense and avoid obstacles.
If you bought a drone between 2011 and 2015, flyaways were common. Now they are an exception to the rule and a new standard for reliability has been established.
Aerial cameras have also come a long way. DJI’s acquisition of camera specialists Hasselblad was an inflexion point as drone manufacturers started incorporating supremely sophisticated (and tiny) cameras into their hardware. Once the flight was mastered, the payloads were focused on more.
Advances in digital stabilization and gimbal technology have also played a major part in moving drones on from toys to legitimate professional tools.
All sorts of organizations are now using off-the-shelf drone technology on a regular basis, from industrial inspections to agriculture to search and rescue.
In fact, drones are now helping to save lives on a daily basis and supporting first responders around the world.
They are too complicated for me to fly
Again, at one point this may well have been the case. But in recent years drones have become legitimate mass-market products as manufacturers have sought to cater to photography and adventure enthusiasts by making them as easy to fly as possible.
And make no mistake: they are easy to fly. Most drones now come with advanced autonomous flight modes that effectively remove the need for a pilot completely – depending on your location of course.
But even before those modes are engaged, all decent quadcopters on the market today will simply hover in place should you let go of the controls.
Piloting will be intuitive for anyone who has used a games console before. For those who haven’t, getting to grips with the remote control will take a bit of practice.
The bottom line is that drones are getting easier to fly and more capable of operating with autonomy with every iteration and new product release. You needn’t be daunted by the prospect of owning one of taking one for a spin!
They are causing chaos at airports
There have been several incidents recently involving drone sightings and major international airports around the world.
Without a doubt, the most high-profile was at London Gatwick in the lead up to Christmas 2018.
We say these incidents have involved ‘drone sightings’ because that’s exactly what they are. We are yet to see evidence that reckless drone pilots were involved or any details that prove the presence of a drone at these recent events.
In the past, birds, helicopters, bats and plastic bags have been mistaken for a rogue drone, so you can understand our hesitation to say what happened for sure. Particularly as the officials at Gatwick still seem no closer to understanding.
Having said that, footage does exist of reckless drone flights near airports and it is a problem. We still don’t fully understand the risks that drones pose to larger passenger jets but the science on that is evolving.
One thing we do know for sure: the vast, vast majority of drone pilots would never dream of flying in such an irresponsible manner.
You can read more on this topic here: 5 Times It Wasn’t A Drone.
If you can see one, it’s spying on you
Again, it’s possible that you do have a nefarious drone pilot neighbor. But it’s very, very unlikely.
The vast majority of drone pilots are hobbyists or professionals, far more interested in capturing landscapes and inspecting infrastructure than getting a look at you or your property.
If you do see one flying near your home, the chances are the pilot is not even looking at you.
This is because of another misunderstanding behind this misconception: off-the-shelf drones are not actually useful or effective tools for spying.
Sure, a neighbor can fly over your back yard and see more than they would peeping through their window, but the majority of drone cameras are much better suited to capturing sweeping vistas at wide angles than zooming in on your secrets.
And, in case you haven’t noticed, drones aren’t the most subtle of spying tools. You can hear the high-pitched whine from a mile away.
All of this adds up to a simple and much less exciting conclusion when you next see a drone: its pilot is probably filming a sunset or inspecting a roof.
Those are our 4 common drone misconceptions. We firmly believe that the technology has the power to do enormous good in the world, from supporting business operations to saving lives. Let us know if there are any unjust misconceptions that we’ve missed…