CES 2016: Day 3 – the drones are back (but with augmented reality)

The final instalment in Cameron Camp's security-focused coverage of CES 2016, looks at the future of drones. It's all about augmented reality.

The final instalment in Cameron Camp’s security-focused coverage of CES 2016, looks at the future of drones. It’s all about augmented reality.

It had to happen: drones had to grow up, stop going rogue, stop interfering with aerial fire-fighting and stop dropping out of the sky at the hands of ‘under-enlightened’ amateurs. Sure, there are still droves of amateurs lining the aisles of CES hoping to scoop up the latest in drone awesomeness, but there is also a sense that giving the drone equivalent of fire to kids is probably a bad idea.

Except you couldn’t tell it by walking down the aisles. Aside from the unassuming FAA booth at the end of the row by the stairs, there was still a mood of frenzy in the air. If you judge it by how packed showgoers descended on the other drone booths, the dream is still alive.

What, you don’t have a personal drone that follows you on your mountain bike and shoots high def imagery? They have that. You mean your drone camera doesn’t have augmented reality? You’re behind the times indeed … at least for CES 2016.

Speaking of augmented reality and flying drones; VR headsets, which were all the rage in 2015, are set to be even bigger this year, from what I’ve seen.

The VR consoles for traditional gamers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, able to simulate the real world with a much higher degree of realism. As such, this technology can put you in a variety of simulations, including flying your drone or driving your next e-car. It’s a safe and immersive space within which to practice your skills.

Don’t have a drone yet? Not to worry, you can pick up a tiny one on the cheap, and you don’t have to register them (yet) with the FAA if you’re in the US. They can still get sucked into a jet engine, but maybe since they’re made of rubber variants, they can successfully be ingested without upsetting the passengers in first-class.

There were plenty of security applications tied to the platforms too, for things like surveying for rogue hotspots, checking RF in the area (like rogue cell towers), and so on. But now, with heavier payloads, they can pack entire miniaturized hacking platforms on tiny server boards, so they’re definitely something to watch.

“Some of the drones are huge, like ‘half the size of a car’ huge.”

And some of the drones are huge, like ‘half the size of a car’ huge. This variety, in scale and aesthetics, is outstanding, which, along with the ability to capture high-resolution photography and stay in the air for longer, demonstrates a real creative streak. Drones are certainly hitting their stride. One company at CES even has dreams of personal flying vehicles, in case you want to take to the skies yourself (okay, most of them aren’t that big).

It will be interesting to see how the legal aspects of the drone market unfolds as it begins to mature. After all, while the FAA here in the US is keeping a keen eye on things – to stem accidents – other jurisdictions around the world will have to grapple with the flying platforms as well.

In the meantime, there’s still time to snap up a modular, GPS stabilized, camera-toting platform that fits in your backpack at a booth near you. And if your VR headset guided drone still gets sucked into a jet engine and you instinctively drop to the ground like a stabbed rat and land on something sharp, you probably get what you deserve.

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