Rise of the drones: from policing the streets to painting your house

With automation and artificial intelligence the delivery of parcels is only the tip of the iceberg for the next generation of drones

Merseyside Police drones used in arrest

A Merseyside police drone. Amazon is developing drones to act as all-seeing body-cam for the police. Photograph: Merseyside Police/PA

If technology companies have their way, the buzz of a drone will soon be as ubiquitous as the glint of a smartphone screen. Facebook aims to deliver internet access from drones high in the stratosphere, Google wants to drop piping hot food at your door via quadcopter, and Amazon has just patented a shoulder-mounted drone to help police officers.

Today’s commercial drones carry lightweight radios and cameras, and pack powerful lithium ion batteries whose flight times last minutes rather than seconds.

But that is nothing compared to what could be coming soon. The change that Silicon Valley is working towards, and that many people fear, is drones harnessing the growing power of automation and artificial intelligence. When drones no longer need humans to control them, their usefulness will improve exponentially.

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