This week Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA), Asia’s largest Internet company, launched their first trial drone deliveries of ginger tea packets from their Taobabo logistics center in Beijing to Shanghai and Guangzhou.  Using quadcopters, the test launch is the first publicly to challenge both the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the FAA, who has been in the midst of discussion regarding unmanned flight commercial authorization.  Does this mean you can place your order for chai-tea latte from Alibaba soon??

Alibaba's CEO Jack Ma

Since Jeff Bezos introduced us to his goal of launching Amazon Prime Air, the Drone Market has been pushing boundaries and unchartered (air) space.  Putting it mildly, drones have been highly controversial.  Invasion of privacy?  According to a Reuters survey, 42% of Americans wish to private ownership banned and 73% more regulations on flight (Reuters 2/2015)

However, disaster response, relief aid, and endless public safety applications have opened up new doors.  As of today, 56 US-based government agencies are allowed to operate drones in 63 sites, this includes 22 law enforcement agencies and 24 universities.

The drone industry is growing at an unprecedented rate.  It is estimated to have created 70,000 jobs and made an economic impact of $13.6 billion over the next 2 years (Bloomsberg data). However UAV manufacturing industry exhibits barriers to entry. The technological resources and capital investment required to develop and manufacture UAVs is high as testing facilities are typically state of the art, using the latest equipment and software.  According to the FAA there will be around 20,000 UAV’s in the sky by 2017.  Industry-leading manufacturers include Textron, Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems ( is it easier to say, no company value under $12 Billion?).

As the first approved commercial drone deployment went underway by ConocoPhillips in January 2014, the FAA has relaxed airspace rules.  This is of course before any new regulatory UAV measures are added after an intoxicated White House employee crashed his drone    Due to the demand, U.S. officials expect the FAA will miss the deadline by at least two years before it can finalize regulations for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. Devising rules for larger drones will take even longer.  Currently FAA has an interim patchwork of guidelines which prohibits flying drones without special approval.   Recreational drone flights are permitted as long as aircraft are a combination of five miles away from an airport and under 400 feet.  U.S. Congress has ordered to integrate drones into the national airspace by September 2015.

Currently the military and other government agencies require to hold a certificate to fly in civilian airspace.  The guidelines, however, are routinely ignored by enthusiasts. Current estimates, over half-million small drones spinning around America’s skies, the FAA has been officially overwhelmed.

Low-risk businesses, such as pipeline inspectors (oil and chemical plants), filmmakers, insurance agencies to conduct roof inspections, and corporate farmers to check on their crop production have been acceptable.

It’s all about the drones, right?  Wrong.  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and MAV-Micro Air Vehicles (Nano) may perhaps will be the most dominant drone force in the future of public safety, but there are more types of drones on the scene, including the micro-drones.  Roachbots can climb walls and hang upside down on a ledge and withstand extreme temperatures.  Wirelessly-controlled, it will allow for fire, bomb-threat and rescue.

Adaptive control systems and artificial technologies are now allowing UAVs and MAV’s to fly on their own in separate missions from each other. Adaptive control systems and artificial technologies have allowed drones to operate on their own and conduct their own missions.  Embracing this technology or not, this may be the new prevailing force behind public safety protection.

Drone's crime-fighting sidekick, the roachbot.

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