Future Drones, Here Today

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Small drones could soon become ubiquitous for a variety of personal uses, from snapping photos for paparazzi to monitoring children for protective parents, according to a story in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal. One example is a "personal sentry" drone now under development for the military at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The drone is only about a foot wide and weighs less than a pound. Four tiny propellers allow it to hover and maneuver quickly in every direction. A parent could affix a sensor to a child, and the drone would follow everywhere the child goes, sending real-time video back to the parent's iPhone. The drone could also easily look into neighbor's backyards and track errant spouses. "It would strike fear in the hearts of every celebrity having a birthday party," Gary Morgan, head of a celebrity-photo agency, told the Journal.

Current FAA rules provide few guidelines for the use of drones for personal and recreational use outside the National Airspace System, as long as they stay at altitudes less than 400 feet agl and keep away from airports and air traffic. As long as the aircraft don't impact safety, there are few restrictions on their use within those parameters, the Journal said. Another sign that drones are on the rise -- filmmaker Tony Scott, who reportedly is working on a sequel to Top Gun, has hinted that drones may play a major role in Top Gun 2. Scott told Hitfix he was planning to visit an installation in Nevada where "computer geeks" fly drones in overseas combat operations. "This world fascinated me, because it's so different from what it was originally," Scott said.