Amazon has been fueling our dreams of instant gratification from all of our impulse buys by teasing a future that includes drone delivery for a while now. But that's not the only reason to dream of a drone-enabled future.
On Monday (July 20), the first successful government-approved drone delivery in the U.S. carried 24 medical packages to a rural health clinic in Virginia. Here are 9 other things drones may soon be able to help us with:
Saving Lives -- Faster Than A Speeding BulletJM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty
Saving Endangered Animals
This week, firefighting efforts in California were hindered when a bunch of hobbyist drones got in the way of firefighting air units, forcing them to to retreat.
There are still some tricky regulations to work out, but at least one company is hoping that instead of hindering their efforts, drones will soon be able to help firefighters faced with the difficult, dangerous task of putting out wildfires, and firefighters in Texas are already finding amazing ways to put drones to use in saving lives.
Protecting The EnvironmentGetty
Scientists are using drones for all sorts of cool things related to protecting the environment, from monitoring air quality to assessing ozone loss. Drones can also be used to track down environmental protection violations like illegal waste dumping or deforestation. And they're already being used to inspect the difficult-to-access parts of oil rigs and oil pipelines for leaks.
Helping Farmers -- And Ultimately Your Dinner Table
Farmers can now use surveillance drones to help them keep an eye on what's going on in huge fields that may be too large to keep a constant watch over on foot. This can help them find and react to disease outbreaks or insect infestations more quickly, which might ultimately help lead to less pesticide use.
Dealing With Nuclear WasteGetty
Engineers are already working on developing drones that might one day be able to help transport hazardous nuclear materials for disposal so that humans wouldn't have to.
Keeping Highways SafeGetty
Drones could be used to survey traffic conditions, inspect bridges and keep an eye out for roadway deterioration or unsafe conditions. The Federal Highway Administration is funding research on how drones could help keep public roads safe at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where program director Javier Irizarry has said, "Drones could keep workers safer because they won't be going into traffic or hanging off a bridge. It would help with physical limitations of the human when doing this kind of work."
Erecting Tall Buildings
Helping Journalists Tell The Headline-Making Stories (And Scandals)
Because drones can access places people sometimes can't, they can provide footage of newsworthy events that might otherwise be impossible to attain. Of course, that also makes them a favored weapon of the paparazzi -- but here's hoping all the good journalism we get from drones will outweigh any scandals dug up by paparazzi drones.