When drones come in peace

Sure, the pilotless aircraft have been used for spying and remote assassinations, but the use of their smaller cousins is exploding in the civilian world

When drones come in peace

Pilot Michael Caciennne controls a drone over mud flats at a ranch near Sarita, Texas. He is part of a Texas A&M Corpus Christi research team is conducting tests to help determine how unmanned aircraft system can be integrated into existing airspace.

Photograph by: Eric Gay , AP

Lying on the shelves of Al Palmer’s office, opposite a photograph of Palmer posing in front of a fighter jet, are all the components one would need to build a small drone. Scattered about are motors, circuit boards, propellers and body parts. A few metres away, in the corridor, hangs a six-rotor “hexacopter,” designed to capture aerial footage so clear it could be used to count the individual tiles on the roof of a house.

But, despite the retired air force general’s military background, these are not drones designed to patrol the tribal regions of Pakistan, picking off terrorists with precision missiles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Palmer is developing “happy” drones — unmanned aircraft of all shapes and sizes that will deliver pizzas, track wildlife, survey crops and search for people lost in the wilderness.

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