Not every drone carries missiles:
Fed up with geese fouling the grass and water at its Petrie Island beaches, the city government is calling in drone strikes.
It’s proving amazingly effective, said Orléans Coun. Bob Monette. The place used to be haunted by as many as 140 geese, which can eat several pounds of grass in a day and poop out nearly as much in waste.
“Now we’re down to anywhere from 15 to 20 on a daily basis,” Monette said. The weapon the city’s deployed is a “hexcopter,” a remote-controlled chopper with rotors that can hover, soar, circle and — most importantly — scoot along just above the ground, scaring the bejesus out of dozing geese. It’s operated by contractor Steve Wambolt, a former IT worker who launched his own business after one too many layoffs.
“When he takes it out, they put their backs up straight and they’re watching,” Monette said. “When he starts it and it goes up off the ground, they sort of walk into a formation, and as soon as it starts moving, they all take off and they don’t come back until the next day.”
Wambolt starts buzzing the geese at about 4 a.m. The drone also works on seagulls, though they’re a bit braver and have to be harassed almost constantly to keep them away. Both sorts of birds can be territorial and nasty to beachgoers. Their droppings also feed bacteria in the water, which can make swimming dangerous.
Update: Reason.tv attended a recent gathering of civilian drone manufacturers and users:
When you hear the word drone you may immediately think of bombs being dropped in the Middle East or the surveillance of citizens here in the United States, but engineers and aviation geeks have wondered for decades if unmanned flight might solve a few of our world’s problems or just make our lives a little easier.
Over 30 years ago, science magazines wondered if drones would “sniff out pollution,” or, “make pilots obsolete,” and engineers are saying that those ideas may be possible now.
“The technology has reached a point where it can be very inexpensive to buy [unmanned aerial system technology],” says John Villasenor, an engineer at UCLA and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Villasenor says that advances in GPS, airframe design, and flight control methods have made unmanned flight available to pretty much anyone.
As a part of the FAA’s re-authorization of funds in February 2012, Congress passed a bill that included the integration of unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace. First for public entities like law enforcement or fire fighters and second for civilians like farmers or filmmakers with full integration by 2015. In July, the FAA approved two drones for commercial use which could fly as early as 2013.