Drone technologies, applications, and businesses are taking off, and this rapid rise is being fueled by innovations from the smartphone revolution. The core technologies for drones (such as sensors, microcontrollers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers) continue to fall in price, enabling the rise of the personal drone business. With ground-based robots, we saw a similar, albeit slower, evolution that was triggered by the introduction of Microsoft Kinect, a low-cost 3D camera with the Xbox 360 and its rapid adoption (and of controllers) by the robotics community.

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With the development of new, lost-cost 3D cameras by a variety of manufacturers, we now have autonomous mobile ground robots/vehicles being introduced in applications that are limited only by one’s imagination. There are now RAAS (robots as a service) for applications such as security guards. However, when taking a closer look at their efficiency, in terms of cost, deployment, ground robot speed and agility, as well as other factors, it is patently clear that the bulk of the applications – the use of which were being targeted by traditional robotics companies a few years ago as great opportunities for robotization – would be better served by fast, light, and agile flying robots, or the new generation of drones, which can be easily installed, move faster, and operate in almost any environment, all without expensive and time consuming modifications. Using the previously-mentioned example of a security robot (Knightscope and others come to mind), we can imagine a scenario in which low-cost sensors and cameras are installed in areas which require security, with a few FLA drones to serve as a deterrent to the would-be criminal/terrorist. The response system would be far more efficient, in terms of area covered, response time, and deterrence. While ground robot companies would claim that robots would serve as an adequate deterrent, one can easily see how a fast and highly agile drone, deployed as an indicator to a would-be threat, would be an even greater deterrent.

 

Robotization is taking place in all manner of areas,including objects that move on the ground, in the air, in space, and both on and under the sea.There are now a number of objects which, until the past decade or so, had nevereven been considered as candidates for robotization (e.g. furniture, buildings, etc.).It thus behooves us to revisit the definition of both ‘robot’ and ‘drone.’In the spirit linguistic evolution,I believe we should think of the word ‘drone’ as the 21st century equivalent of ‘robot’, in much the same way as people once used the term ‘horseless carriage’ before adopting ‘automobile.’ Why should we update our definition? The first reason is that words matter–by definition. They are the foundation on which our thinking is built upon, they are how we build ideas, and they are how we humans work together to change our world. Furthermore, there is growing confusion over robotics – arguably the most important technology in the history of the human race – among members of the public, academia, and industry. Robots, and drones, are the physical embodiments of an emerging intelligence that will soon encompass the globe, then expand beyond it through space and time. It is therefore essential that we adopt clearly and universally understood terms to describe them.

 

While the word ‘drone’ implies a lack of ability to make a decision independently (i.e., to ‘think’), this is often not the case with many of the robots and drones in the field. To make decisions in the most accurate and efficient way possible, developers are enabling drones to not only access data obtained from the Internet of Everything (IoE) and its ever-growing number of sensors in the cloud, and to make decisions based on this data, but also enable their own independent processors to complement, contextualize, and provide the drone a situational awareness advantage. All of thiscontradicts the literal meaning of the term ‘drone’. Should an alternative term be created?

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