The intrigue: Walmart and DroneUp will offset the cost of delivery with revenue from other drone-related services, such as insurance inspections, emergency response and construction oversight.
- For example, a local construction agency could work with DroneUp to monitor onsite job progress through aerial drone photography.
- Those other services will help the entire drone industry by gathering more flight data.
This is not a surprise. When the FAA proposed its Remote ID rules, in December 2019, they said that the data collected by their (then) proposed cloud tracking system could include far more than drone location data, and suggested it could include aerial photography and more (such as listening to WiFi and Bluetooth signals as they fly overhead).
This is actually quite scary. Package delivery drones might, for example, be conducting low altitude aerial photography that includes incidental photos of your kids in the backyard or walking to school.
In the FAA’s original proposal, the FAA wanted real time tracking, continuously, of all radio-controlled aircraft including toys, from the ground up. This desire has not gone away – to some extent a recent Homeland Security initiative seems to have resurrected that desire. At some point, commercial use of drones may become sufficiently large that the FAA will ban recreational use, except by FAA licensed remote pilots and possibly limited to selected areas – or resurrected real time tracking and charge a tracking fee to all recreational drone operators, de facto eliminating consumer drones. Once upon a time the US had a burgeoning ultralight aircraft industry – but after 9/11, FAA regulatory changes made training of new ultralight pilots nearly impossible, and the industry has nearly vanished.