January 23, 2015 5:23 pm
Updated: January 24, 2015 5:43 pm

WATCH: Where does the future of drones lie?


Watch: Part 3 of Global BC series on drones

Drone technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, but what does our future with drones look like?

Drones are now taking us places we never dreamed of going like the middle of an erupting volcano in Iceland and wastelands like Chernobyl, where humans are not allowed.

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They showed us the wave of protests in Hong Kong and the deadly destruction at the Donetsk airport in Ukraine.

More mundanely, drones are being developed to help deliver pizza to your front door or even help you snap that selfie.

So, just how integral to our lives will drones become?

“Drones will be boring in about five years, maybe more like 10 years,” says journalism professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and founder of Drone Journalism Lab Matt Waite. “And they are just tools and of course we use them, and why would not we? We just shrug our shoulders and move on.”

He says where he sees regulation changing is in the realm of improving technology, where governments are going to require these devices to have certain kinds of safety equipment on board, like a transmitter that alerts other aircraft to their presence or fail-safe equipment, where if a motor fails, a parachute deploys and that will keep people on the ground from being hit.

READ MORE: Regulation, legality and safety of drones

“Once we see more reliable systems that allow for them to be flown autonomously where the device just goes to where it is supposed to go and there is no human pilot involved. The more that it happens, the more boring it becomes and the more we accept that this is part of the deal now,” says Waite.

Drones are a growing market estimated to reach one billion dollars by 2018, making it a huge business opportunity for Canada.

Drone entrepreneurs here in B.C. say Canada may be positioning itself to become an industry leader.

“The Federal Aviation Administration [in the U.S.] has dragged their feet when it comes down to regulation,” says Paul Baur, a local entrepreneur who runs Kaizen Kinetics, a company offering a multitude of drone related services. “It can only benefit us. It puts a spotlight on Canada.”

Baur says more and more companies from oversees are coming to Canada because of more lenient regulations.

“It is really pushing the innovation side of things now that they can do testing and actually deploy out on the field,” he says.

But from the legal perspective, aviation lawyer Lee Mauro says drone technology is advancing really quickly and, at its current state, the legislation is behind.

“The difficulty is going to be developing legislation that allows for the use of drones in a safe way,” says Mauro. “The problem comes down to enforcement. How do you enforce something that restricts the use of drones? That relates to the nature of drones. If you capture a drone or if you see a drone, you do not necessarily know who was flying it, so it is very difficult to enforce regulations or criminal code. The difficulty of finding the operator is going to make it extremely difficult to draft regulation that’s effective.”

WATCH: Aviation lawyer Lee Mauro talks about how Canadian law treats incidents involving drones

But beyond regulation and enforcement, there is also the uphill battle around public perception and education.

“People do not know what the regulations are,” says Mauro. “I don’t think anyone goes home and reads them. It is something that Transport Canada needs to make people aware of, and I think it is lacking right now.”

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