The Rise of Drones

With a few rare exceptions, drones in the US still remain grounded by federal regulators—at least those drones intended to be used for commercial purposes. But that hasn’t stopped Silicon Valley investors from flocking to so-called unmanned aerial vehicles (the nascent industry’s preferred term), pouring about $95 million into drone startups over the past two years. Investors are betting widespread use of drones is only a matter of time as government and cultural norms catch up with the technology. And when they do, the hunch is that the real money won’t be in the flying machines themselves, but the software that makes them useful.

When that future arrives, drone enthusiasts promise a flourishing of creativity as another technology that, like the computer, was once limited to experts becomes accessible to everyone. But many members of that broader public that would make up the market for democratized drones are still deeply suspicious of potentially prying airborne eyes. For the pro-drone contingent, overcoming that mistrust could be the most important thing easier-to-use UAVs can accomplish. After all, what could be cuddlier than an airborne selfie stick?

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