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WeTalkUAV’s biggest drone stories and videos of 2018

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The drone industry is at the forefront of technological innovation and as such, is undergoing almost constant change. 2018 was my first year writing about UAVs and although I’ve learnt a lot in 12 months, there is still so much more to get my head around.

A few months back, I wrote 7 things I learned in my first month of owning a Mavic Air. Although most of the learnings fall into the ‘Yeah, duh!’ category, I think that for those with little to no experience with drones, they are still a bit of a mystery (and sometimes scary). It’s only once you own one, you understand why others like them. You realize they can capture amazing images, are easy to use and can be a lot of fun.

It won’t surprise most of our readers but drones are still viewed by many out there (my girlfriend included) as a nerdy, niche pastime (and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that). They are also viewed, correctly so, as predominantly a male hobby (89 percent of our readers are male). Drones have gotten a lot more popular in recent years and when celebrities like Will Smith fly a drone on the Tonight Show, they seep their way more and more into the zeitgeist. Slowly drones are being recognized for all the cool things they add to society. 

We wrote many articles this year centering about how noisy drones are as well as spelling out public fears around drones being used for surveillance. I think those two factors in particular will mean we are likely to see many more stories in mainstream media about drone users behaving badly. The good thing is, there are now enough outlets like ours to put out a positive counter narrative and with more drone owners all the time, fear mongering and misinformation will not necessarily work. Idiotic behavior from a few individuals should never be used to define the identity of a group.

Our most read stories of 2018

THE GOOD

While there was plenty of negative press about drones in 2018, we tried to highlight some of the good stuff UAVs are doing in the world.  Whether it be saving human or animal lives, helping put out fires or assisting nature – UAVs are helping the world in all sorts of ways.

Drone with thermal imaging camera locates assault victim

DJI Report 65 lives were saved by drones in the previous year 

Firefighting drones helping to combat US wildfires 

Amazing documentary shows all the ways drones are changing the world 

This short doco produced by Dutch design and architecture publication, Dezeen, interviews futurists, architects and other experts about positive and negative implications that UAVs are having on cities today. Called Elevation, it’s on YouTube and you can watch it here.

THE BAD

The attempted assassination of Venezuelan President using DJI drones

Two DJI Matrice 600 drones were detonated in the air as controversial leader, Nicolas Maduro, made an address to a military parade in August. Although the drones missed their target due to military signal jammers, the possibility of consumer drones being used to kill someone was something that came up several times this year (read about Elon Musk’s warning regarding Slaughterbots)

Drones cause chaos at Gatwick Airport – or did they?

Like it or not – stories regarding near misses between planes and drones have become common media fodder. Some thrill-seeking morons out there, clearly don’t see the risk they pose to the public when they fly their UAVs near passenger jets. In January, a video was uploaded to YouTube from a drone showing a plane coming into land near Las Vegas. People who so recklessly endanger people’s lives should be severely punished before a tragedy inevitably occurs. This slow-motion video shows the damage a drone can cause if it flies into the wing of a plane.

Few drone stories in 2018 were bigger than the Gatwick drama. Between December 19-21, several drones seem to have flown above Gatwick Airport, the second busiest in the United Kingdom, closing the airport for 36 hours, disrupting nearly 1000 flights and severely annoying 140,000 people. Problem is, despite some hundred sightings of the drone from members of the public, police and military, until now – police have no suspect in custody. We’d really like to get to the bottom of this story and figure out whether there really was a drone and if so, who was flying it and why. We can expect more on this story in 2019 – particularly concerning drone regulations .

When it comes to rogue drones, we had plenty of stories about drone killer devices or US police departments obtaining their own drones for to respond.

Killer drones and surveillance

Considering all consumer drones exist thanks to their original invention as weapons of war, it’s remarkable that consumer drones haven’t been used in more attacks. There are a number of reasons for this, foremost of which is, if you are inclined towards harming groups of people, there are more effective ways of doing so (like guns) than flying a drone carrying a small amount of explosive towards people.

Elon Musk’s dire warning about killer drones

Drones perving on people

It’s unfortunate but not surprising that some people use their drone to spy on others. This was our most read story of the year.

The problem of ‘peeping tom’ drones

Drones still sit outside of mainstream culture

‘What are you talking about?’ – you may be thinking. ‘I know loads of people who own drones.’ That may well be but as at the beginning of 2018, the FAA reported around 1 million drones registered in the United States. This included 878,000 for hobbyists and 122,000 in the commercial sector. While that number is predicted to grow to 3.1 million in 2021, they are unlikely to become a gadget for the masses anytime soon. The plus side: the skies should remain relatively open for you to explore for at least the next few years (as long as idiots don’t ruin it for us all).

When new technology becomes truly ubiquitous, like smartphones, they become sort of invisible because everyone accepts them as a normal part of everyday life. We are slowly getting there with drones but still have a way to go.

The most popular videos of 2018 on page 2

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