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There will be a drone for that

Monday, 19 October, 2015

Imagine you’re a well-off citizen of the United Arab Emirates and you’re planning a shopping trip to London. You may be looking for a bargain apartment in the “golden postcodes” of Belgravia or Knightsbridge or just some hummus at Fortnum and Mason, grocer to the Queen. There’s a problem, though. The UAE has advised its citizens to stay away from “hazardous” parts of London, including Oxford Street, after two incidents in which Arab visitors were robbed by thugs brandishing guns, knives and hammers.

Solution? A personal drone that could follow a tourist through the city’s “unsafe” neighbourhoods and alert private minders or the police about an impending threat. And there’s a startup for that. Gofor was founded in San Francisco by Alex Cornell and Phil Mills and they envisage a future where drones are affordable and abundant. The sky’s pretty much the limit they believe when it comes to what personal drones that can do: “location scouting, HD documentation, personal security, telepresence, internet range extension.”

The optimistic Gofor vision is based on human kindness, but evil does exist and bad people might be thinking about the usefulness of drones for their purposes, too. Would it possible to equip a drone with a high-powered rifle, shoot a target and then crash the perp into the Thames Estuary? No sign of killer or weapon; the perfect crime. Sounds like pulp fiction but drones do have a history when it comes to negative headlines.

Inevitably, there will be calls to ban personal drones. First, however, comes the registration. The US Transportation Department is announcing today that it will soon require registration for all unmanned aircraft. Will drone sellers be required to collect customer information? This is a developing story.


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