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In the grey area between virtual and real

A US based start up, CAPE, is offering piloting trills from remote.  
Here’s the deal: you log in on to their website and pick up a drone from one of their available locations (so far in California) then you just take off, pilot the drone and watch the landscape as you fly from the comfort of your home.

When you fly a drone you usually have a video camera hanging from the drone and the video is streamed to a tablet that is connected to your control pad. Sometimes you control the drone directly from the tablet doubling up as a control pad.

In this case the video is streamed from the video camera on the drone to your computer via the Internet and you see what you would, were you on the place where the drone took off.

To all effects the perception is exactly the same.

Notice that this is not an easy feat. Providing you with the video stream and more importantly with the possibility to control the drone from thousands of miles away requires a sophisticated technology to keep the latency to a minimum so that your commands are executed by the drone “instantaneously”.  Well it can be “instantaneous”  but the perception is there and that’s what matter.

A second issue, not a minor one indeed, is that communications takes place across the Internet and it may happen that connection is lost. In that “unfortunate” situation what would happen to the drone?

Well, CAPE has a plan B. If connection is lost the drone takes control of itself hovering on place and after a while if control is not restored it will fly itself back to its “home base”.

What is really intriguing to me is

first that as new technology emerges soon after new biz opportunities emerge;

second that this is an example of the thin line separating reality from virtual with technology letting us move easily from one to the other, so easily, actually, that we may risk to forget which is which.

I can easily imagine that the tele-transport perception that is basically created by this service will extend in the coming years to cover several other applications, for sure tourism, letting people to be “there” before actually “being there”, or continuing to return “there” even when they are back home.

Other applications?  What about realtors offering the possibility to perspective buyers to actually visit the area at their own pace using a drone? What about exploiting drones for education purposes, to see with your own eyes a monument, the architecture of a city and the lay out of its streets? What about “hiring” a drone to follow your kid as he goes to school?

Will we have companies selling drones “tickets” to follow a concert or a leg of the Tour the France or of a ski downhill?  Would there be gifted people hiring drones to broadcast to an audience their vision of an event?

The possibilities are awesome and, really, the limit is the sky!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, co-chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until Aprile 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.