Barely one month into 2021 and already the scope for drone advancements look hugely promising, from the way we deliver medicine to their hand in space exploration.
We’re quickly finding out that mankind has barely scratched the surface in regards to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the impact they could have on Earth—and potentially other planets, too.
Explosion.com breaks down the latest news from the drone community and which industry advancements look particularly worthy of your attention in 2021.
Drones Look Upwards in the Space Race
Having grown bored with the impact they’re having on this planet, drones are set to change the way we operate in space after Aevum announced ‘the world’s first autonomous launch system’ in December 2020.
The Ravn X is known as ‘the world’s biggest drone’, and CNET explored how this 80-foot long satellite delivery system has already secured more than $1 billion in launch contracts. The United States Space Force is among those contractors, with the Ravn X set to send 360 of its satellites into low Earth orbit, very possibly at some points this year:
In the interest of conservation, the Ravn X is 70-percent reusable as things stand, though Aevum chief executive officer, Jay Skylus, said he hopes to increase that number to 100 percent in the future.
In-Person Drone Racing Returns
After the 2020 Drone Racing League was forced to play out its most recent season entirely via simulator, fans of the sport will be glad to see action return to live locations in 2021.
That’s no disrespect to the virtual model, of course, which has been gripping to watch nonetheless. The SIM version of drone racing comes with its share of thrills, but it plays so much more like a video game, and there’s a lot to be said for the real threat of seeing a rotor fly from its body or a pilot lose out via a final-turn crash.
This year will host the sixth season of the DRL, which is used to racing at venues like the Allianz Riviera in Nice, France, and the Adventuredome in Las Vegas, Nevada.
MultiGP has announced the Mayhem Team Race will be held at For Worth International Airport in Dallas Texas (April 10-11), while tickets are already on sale for the MultiGP International Open in Muncie, Indiana (August 11-15).
Audience capacity at these events could be subject to change depending on coronavirus quarantine protocols in certain states, while sites like Drone.bet provide information on pilots, teams in competition and more.
Sky’s the Limit for Sustainable ‘Drone Jet Packs’
The geek world breathed a collective sigh after reaching 2015 without realising Marty McFly’s hoverboard vision, but it may not be long until jet packs are a reality—and it’s all thanks to drones.
Now, there have been various mechanisms and interpretations of the jet pack over the decades. Some utilise hydrojet technology—though the range of this format is restricted—while others are powered by hydrogen peroxide, which comes with a limited operation time. The Daedalus Flight Pack is one of the most successful systems invented to date, although Steve Lauro—who bought a suit for $440,000—discovered piloting one is far more difficult than it looks, per CNBC.
Drones could be set to transform the industry, however, following the phenomenon of the ‘LA Jet Pack Guy’ and the revelation that he was, after all, a drone posing as a human:
Airline pilots and public caught video of what appeared to be a ‘man with a jet pack’ flying at around 3,000 feet near planes at LAX airport in September 2020. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed no jet pack companies had been in operation near the date, leading investigators to track down what they believe to be the culprit—a remote-controlled ‘jetpack guy’ drone, per The Drive.
No human-operated jet packs are known to be able to reach an altitude as high as 3,000 feet at present. While the physical limits would obviously change with a person attached, 2021 could be the year we use drone technology to reach for the sky—literally.