Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A drone, in a technological context, is an unmanned aircraft. 

Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot. The aircraft may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with GPS.  UAVs have most often been associated with the military but they are also used for search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and firefighting, among other things.

More recently, the unmanned aircraft have come into consideration for a number of commercial applications. In late 2013, Amazon announced a plan to use drones for delivery in the not-too-distant future.  Personal drones are also becoming increasingly popular, often for drone-based photography

Other applications include drone surveillance and drone journalism, because the unmanned flying vehicles can often access locations that would be impossible for a human to get to. 

In late 2012 Chris Anderson, Editor-In-Chief of Wired magazine, retired to dedicate himself to his personal drones company, 3D Robotics.  Personal drones are currently a hobbyist’s item most often used for aerial photography, but the market and potential applications are both expected to expand rapidly.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing regulations for the operation of unmanned aircraft.

John Cherbini, president of 3D Robotics, discusses business and consumer applications of drones:

This was last updated in August 2015

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