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The futurist: 192 uses for drones


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The thought occurred to me that mounting a video projector to a flying drone could give it unusual capabilities. 

My first idea was to use it for special effects at a concert or major indoor event. But a device like this could also be used for spot advertising – creating momentary images on the sidewalk or parking lot; subliminal advertising – suggesting a variety of products or services inside graphic images; emergency rescue – displaying a series of arrows to help someone lost in a forest; or image masking – to disguise someone’s body and facial features to prevent them from being monitored. 

This line of thinking started me down several dozen new paths almost instantly.

Drones can be low flying, high flying, tiny or huge, silent or noisy, super-visible or totally invisible, your best friend or your worst enemy.

We can add lights, sound, cameras, microphones, sensors, robotic arms, wave cancellation technology or wave enhancement technology.

Simply adding a robotic display will enable us to fly in and have a private video conversation with someone on the other side of the world.

Flying drones can also roll along the ground, stick to the side of a building, float in a river, dive under water, jump onto a building, climb a tree, or attach themselves like parasites to the sides of trains, ships, and airplanes.

One moment they can be hovering in front of you and the next they can fly off at the speed of sound, disappearing into the clouds.

Combining all these capabilities, attributes, and special features into one single device will open up a world of possibilities unlike anything before in all history.

Join me as we step into the magical world ahead being unleashed with this amazing new technology – flying drones.

Introducing the Triple Checkerboard

I’ve developed a brainstorming technique called the “checkerboard” as a way to generate ideas. It’s a very simple idea – start with eight categories and list eight items in each category, enough to fill all 64 spaces on a checkerboard.

When I’m feeling extra creative, I’ll generate enough ideas to fill two checkerboards – 128 of them.

But it’s only in my most masochistic moments that I’ve decided to torture myself into coming up with a full triple checkerboard of 192 ideas. This requires a little prep work to get into the mental zone for rapid idea generation.

Naturally, jumping into an epiphany fest like this involves editing out all the goofy ones, and few others too esoteric to be meaningful.

As promised, here are the 24 categories I’ve created, with eight examples in each category. 

Early Warning Systems – How different would the world be if we had some advance warning that a disaster was about to happen? Each of these will require sensor swarms capable of detecting tiny changes to our atmosphere or surrounding environments.

1. Earthquake Warning Networks

2. Hurricane Monitoring Swarms

3. Tornado Warning Systems

4. Hail Preventer/Sound Cannons

5. Avalanche Preventer/Sound Cannons

6. Impending Flood Alert Systems

7. Tsunami Forecasting Systems

8. Forest Fire Preventers

Emergency Services

9. Missing Child Drone – Much like a hunting dog, capable of tracking the smell of the child.

10. Thermo Sensor Drones – For avalanche rescue.

11. Infrared Sensor Drones – For early forest fire detection.

12. Insect Killing Drones – Kill the insects before they kill you.

13. Poacher Drones – Tracking animals in danger of being poached.

14. Endangered Species Drone – Signals whenever an endangered species is in danger.

15. Eyes on the Problem Drone – Whenever a city receives word that there is a problem, their first response will be to send up a drone to “get eyes on it.”

16. Missing Pet Drone – Many will pay dearly to find a missing pet.

News Reporting

17. Accident/Incident Monitoring – High altitude monitors search for whenever a series of elevated heart rates show up, and drone will instantly zoom in for a closer look, alerting those monitoring the feed. Once an accident or incident has been detected, a series of other drones will be called in to record the entire event.

18. Time-Lapse Weather Drones – Capturing the big picture over an extended period of time from virtually any angle.

19. Protestor Cams – Wherever large groupings of people gather, drone monitoring will alert news organizations to meaningful activities.

20. Man-on-the-Street Interview Drone – Questions and answers done with common people on the street.

21. Real-Time Stats Drone – Recording everything from traffic counts, to people tendencies, to air quality, to brand preferences, to A-B testing, and more.

22. Rapid Comment/Interview Drones – Whenever a major political decision is made, “interview drones” are instantly deployed to capture public sentiment.

23. Locker Room Drones – Rapid interviews with athletes after major victories/losses.

24. Photo Drones – Spatial positioning to capture the perfect photo from the perfect angle.

Delivery

25. PO Box Drones – Your post office box, once it’s been filled, will lift off and deliver the mail directly to you.

26. Medical Prescription Delivery – 24-hour, any time, any place.

27. Grocery Delivery – Already in use.

28. Mail, Package Delivery – Already in use.

29. Anticipatory Delivery – Automated systems anticipate a failure and preemptively order replacement parts.

30. Send-It-Back Return Drones – Clothes don’t fit or it’s not what you ordered, no problem.

31. Direct from the Farm Produce – Fresh peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cherries, and grapes any time of the year.

32. Banquet Catering Drones – Lavish feasts flown in at a moments notice.

Business Activity Monitoring

33. Construction Monitoring – Real time monitoring of building projects, even on the other side of the earth.

34. Topological Surveying – Rapid surveying systems to speed development projects.

35. Instant Environmental Impact Assessment – Instantly monitor, anticipate, and record environmental changes on any project.

36. Power Line Monitoring Drones – Checking for problems, deterioration, and signs of danger.

37. Thermo Imaging of Buildings – To spot heat loss.

38. Sensitive Product Shipping – Monitor shipping and handling of delicate products all the way from manufacturer to end customer.

39. Open Seas Pirate Monitoring Drones – Once they are spotted, send in the pirate attack drones.

40. Geological Surveying – Next-gen mapping of oil and mineral deposits.

Gaming Drones 

41. Three Dimensional Chess Drones – What’s the fun in 2D chess when you can fly your knight or rook in for a perfect kill? Checkmate!

42. World of Warcraft in Space – Working outside the limitations of two-dimensional displays, augmented reality drone games will introduce a whole new dimension to gaming.

43. Three Dimensional Treasure Hunts – Finding unusual objects in unusual places.

44. Drone Jousting Matches – The collisions will be spectacular.

45. Monster Truck Vs. Flying Drone Matches – Who wouldn’t pay to see this?

46. Drone Racing – The drone version of the Indianapolis 500.

47. Drone Obstacle Courses – Great training for aspiring drone pilots.

48. Drone Hunting Season – Forget the clay pigeons, this is far more challenging.

Sporting Drones

49. Perfect Athlete’s Performance Sphere – Perfect weather dome formed over athlete – creating perfect humidity, temp, air pressure, etc. – to enhance athletic performance. Also shouting words of encouragement that no one else can hear.

50. Space Racing Camera Drones – Enabling audiences on earth to witness the drama unfolding as drivers race spaceships.

51. Personal Trainer Drones – Totally relentless in making you work out.

52. Instant Landing Pad – Much like an instant airbag flown in and inflated at a moment’s notice.

53. Marathon Trackers – Following the progress from miles away.

54. Runner’s Metabolism Tracker – Watch how your body changes in real-time.

55. Bareback Drone Riders – Rodeo has a new sport.

56. Outdoor Bowling – Levitating bowling game that operates 1’ above the ground, with a floating ball return.

Entertainment Drones 

57. Comedian Drone – Flies in and performs random acts of comedy.

58. Magician Drone – Flies in and performs random acts of magic.

59. Concert Swarm – Spatial cacophony of sound coming from 1,000 speaker drones simultaneously.

60. Drone Circus – Entertainment in a whole different realm.

61. Performance Art Swarms – Visual swarm ballet where our imagination is the only limiting factor.

62. Mega Photo Stitching Competitions – With thousands of drones photographing an image simultaneously, this will be the process used to create the world’s highest resolution image.

63. Prankster Drones – Send random stuff to random people and video their reactions.

64. Fireworks Dropping Drones – Our ability to “ignite and drop” fireworks from the sky will dramatically change both how they’re made and the artistry used to display them.

Marketing

65. Spot Advertising – Project momentary images or commercials on the sidewalk or parking lot in front of members of your target audience.

66. Subliminal Advertising – Project scenic or artistic images on walls, trees, and surfaces, each with hidden messages suggesting a variety of products or services inside the graphics and images.

67. Multimedia Formations – Swarms morphing and shape-shifting into giant three-dimensional logos and messaging.

68. Banner Pulling Drones – Old school advertising brought closer to earth.

69. Food and Product Sampler Drones – Since fewer people will be going to stores, they can sample new things on a regular basis.

70. Grandstanding Drones – Using drones to do something spectacular.

71. Flying Strobe Drones – To draw a crowd.

72. Fresh Bread Drones – The smell of fresh bread always turns people’s heads.

Farming and Agriculture – As the cost of operating drones drops, they will reach a point of efficiency where it becomes profitable to have a micro drone pick and transport a single kernel of wheat 1,000 miles to its final destination. 

73. Artificial Bees – Rapid pollination drones.

74. Seeding Drones – Swarmbots planting one kernel at a time.

75. Insect Monitoring Drones – Rapid identification of all insects, bugs, worms, and mites. Also executes all of the bad ones, keeping track of bug body count.

76. Fertilizer Monitoring Drones – Even trace elements can make a huge difference.

77. Disease Monitoring Drones – Even a small outbreak can be disastrous.

78. Bird Frightening Drones – For crops like sunflowers where birds can destroy an entire field in a matter of hours.

79. Crop Fogger Drones – When temperatures get below freezing.

80. Harvesting Drones – One kernel at a time if necessary.

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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