Pizza, porn and whale snot: Seven alternative uses for drones
A small drone hovers in the sky on Feb. 1, 2014 in Washington (AFP)

News that a British Airways plane was hit by a drone before landing safely at Heathrow airport has once again highlighted how drones can be a nuisance and, potentially, dangerous. We all know about the military uses of drones (bomb lots of people, surveillance), and how drones can be usedfor nefarious purposes (theft, voyeurism), but there are actually some pretty cool uses for drones too.


Collecting whale snot

You read that right. Last year the Ocean Alliance partnered with tech heads Yuneec to create “snot bots”; drones with petri dishes attached. For research purposes, the drones are flown over water to catch spray and snot from whales when the animals exhale. Definitely better than them wiping mucus on the underside of a bus seat.

Journalism

There is already a drone journalism lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Missouri also offers a drone journalism course .

There is also something called the PSDJ (Professional Society of Drone Journalism), which has members in 37 countries and “explores best practices to employ [drones] for a variety of reporting needs, including investigative, disaster, weather, sports, and environmental journalism”.

This year, the respected journalism school Poynter even predicted that 2016 may be the breakout year for hack usage of drones. But this all depends – in the US at least – on whether the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) issues fresh guidelines on drone usage.

Waiting tables

If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you’ll know how easy it is to make mistakes. It’s easy to drop things, misremember orders, or entirely forget customers who have been waiting for half an hour. In a sign of the times – all of us eventually being replaced by robots – the livelihoods of out-of-work actors and students are now under threat. A restaurant in Singapore has used drones to wait tables, carrying up to 2kg of food and drink.

However, restaurants and drones don’t always mix. A woman was hit in the face by a drone in a TGI Friday’s restaurant after the introduction of a drone carrying mistletoe to “lure in festive diners”.

Er, porn

Of course drones have been used in porn. Of course they have. The first, um, full-length porn film to be shot by drone is called – reader, I’m sorry – Drone Boning .

Featuring sweeping shots of mountains, forests and beaches, straight and gay couples get down to it. But the figures are so tiny that you have to squint to find them. It’s a but like Where’s Wally, but instead of a bespectacled guy in glasses and a woolly hat, you’re looking for two pale women scissoring in a roped-off field.

Still, things might improve.

Deliver pizza

In a 2013 PR stunt innovative use of technology, pizza chain Domino’s delivered a pizza via drone (called the “DomiCopter”). And as of this month, it seems the company might be flying food more often. In Australia and New Zealand, the company has spent a year developing DRU (Domino’s Robotic Units), which will be trialled soon. The 400lb aluminium and steel drones, which navigate using GPS, are even “programmed to make small talk” with customers. So don’t think you can get away without tipping.

Deliver basically everything else

Amazon Prime is working on drone delivery services and in 2015 released a video showing a prototype aircraft. This video was presented by Jeremy Clarkson. But don’t let that put you off. The prototype was able to fly both vertically and horizontally and the company reckons deliveries could be made in 30 minutes. To help with this, Amazon has proposed designated “air corridors” for delivery drones. And why not commander the sky? Because they have basically taken over everything else.

Art

Not only can drones take beautiful photographs (for some truly stunning examples visit From Where I Drone ), visual artists and even painters are also playing with the idea of using drones in their work. “ Drone painting ” results in splashed canvases; think Jackson Pollock. If graffiti is more up your street, perhaps literally, there is a Drone Graffiti tumblr for that.

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