It is safe to say that drones do not always get the best rep, whether it is thanks to the fearsome reputation of the military Predator drones or the general annoyance of a neighbor that keeps accidentally crashing his or her device through a window. In the consumer market, drones are still something of a novelty, but in industrial and commercial applications drones are really starting to take off. Here are three ways in which drones are promising to be good for society in the very near future.

Telecommunications

Many rural areas in the United States still do not have reliable cell phone service. What’s more, recent natural disasters such as hurricanes Sandy, Harvey, and Maria have highlighted the potential issues of prolonged mass service outages. In modern interconnected society, not having cell or data service means that first responders cannot do their job, along with most of the working population. Verizon and AT&T have both been testing mobile hotspots attached to large drones as a possible to solution to disaster related coverage loss. Essentially, large drones fly a powerful 4G hotspot over the affected area, giving everyone below the data and coverage they need. This solution has also been touted as an option for bringing internet service to previously unserved areas. 

Global Wi-Fi

In a solution similar to Verizon’s emergency coverage drones, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has a grand vision of using solar powered drones to bring wireless internet coverage to the roughly four billion people around the world who lack coverage. This massive drone, named Aquila, has a bigger wingspan than a Boeing 747, and would have an autopilot control it as it floats around broadcasting Wi-Fi to the people below. So far, tests have been relatively successful, despite some crashes, though the drone is still some time away from being mission ready. 

Shipping and Delivery

With the rise of online shopping, companies like Amazon are straining the capabilities of increasingly defunded postal services. Private couriers like UPS and FedEx are also feeling the pressure, and all the above companies are looking at ways to automate and streamline their delivery processes. Automated drones are a very promising way to make this happen, delivering smaller packages quickly, automatically, and cheaply saving companies fuel and man-hour costs while increasing delivery speeds. Amazon has already started testing drone deliveries in a few test areas, and even companies like Domino’s pizza have started to test deliveries using drones. At this point there is little doubt that drones are the future of courier services, which should be good for everyone; consumers get the prime package, or pizza, even faster and for a cheaper price, while the increased speed and lower cost means more revenue for companies.