Drones and Blockchain – A Long Term Relationship?

For many years, drones were mostly used by military forces for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. However, over the last five years, there has been a massive growth in sales of consumer and commercial drones. Research from Gartner predicts that drone sales will nearly double over the next few years, from $6 billion in 2017 to $11.2 billion in 2020.

Converging the use of blockchain technology with drones offers benefits to the military, consumer, and commercial drone pilots alike. Therefore, with some of the current initiatives in the pipeline, it is possible the market could outpace even these generous growth forecasts.

Commercial Drones Could Soon be Delivering Your Groceries

As consumer drone sales have grown, so has the market for commercial drones. The use of blockchain to create a decentralized drone network opens up a whole new world of potential.

Walmart, for example, has recently made the news due to having implemented blockchain to manage particular parts of its supply chain. Moreover, news has emerged that Walmart has filed patents related to the use of blockchain technology for managing drone fleets.

The company is looking into the possibility of delivery drones, which would be able to recognize one another using blockchain-based identity keys. The drones could then exchange packages and goods, reducing the need for trust in the handoffs within a delivery network. The location data of each package, plus which drones have handled it, would be securely recorded on a blockchain.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office [USPTO] also confirmed that IBM has filed a patent for the use of distributed ledger technology in tracking drones. Such a system aims to address privacy and security concerns that have arisen as commercial and recreational drone use have become more popular.

A blockchain would record the geographical location of a drone and use variable block times to ensure that if a drone is flying into restricted airspace, air traffic controllers could verify whether or not it is allowed to enter.

Earn Passive Income from Your Personal Drone Footage

Many personal drone owners end up finding that they have hours of unused footage from their flights. However, blockchain-based peer-to-peer marketplaces could soon provide a means of earning real income from selling aerial photos or video footage.

As things stand, there is a genuine need for drone footage across a variety of industry sectors including agriculture, real estate, insurance, news, and tourism. A blockchain marketplace could connect buyers and sellers of drone footage, while also addressing the issues of file storage and copyrights.

Soar is one blockchain project aiming to launch such a marketplace in 2019. The company is developing a flexible pricing model, increasing or reducing the price offered for aerial shots and footage depending on the forces of supply and demand.

The marketplace will be purely request-based, and with no commitment on the part of a drone owner. They can merely respond to a request and upload their footage if they wish to. Buyers of drone shots can also offer bounties for footage of specific places or even during specific events such as festivals, or after a natural disaster.

Opening up the market for drone footage to personal drone users also overcomes the issue that, in many countries, commercial drone users have to acquire specific licensing rights to the footage. Personal footage, on the other hand, is owned by the individual.

Swarms of Military Drones Controlled by Blockchain

The world’s militaries are still the biggest users of drones, perhaps unsurprising since the technology originated with them. However, blockchain is also providing some practical uses in military drone deployment.

Google came under fire from its own employees earlier this year when the company was discovered to be providing its machine learning algorithms to the US Department of Defence [DoD]. Project Maven accounted for $7.4 billion of DoD spending in the fields of AI and data processing. The Google algorithms were deployed to analyze the vast quantities of drone footage taken by military drones.

Although Google has since withdrawn its involvement, the partnership serves to demonstrate the power of using emerging technology in drone deployment. Adding blockchain into this equation creates some pretty powerful scenarios.

For example, blockchain could be used to power a fleet of drones as part of a decentralized network. By using cryptography, drones could communicate with one another securely, and work in harmony to achieve specific mission objectives. This could allow a military body to deploy many more drones compared with each drone requiring its own individual pilot.

Flying into the Future

All of the market data suggests that drones are indeed having a moment.

The integration of blockchain technology could now open up entirely new markets, revenue streams, and modes of national defense for drones.

Drones are certainly here to stay for the long haul and blockchain technology may be the propeller needed to send them flying faster and further into the future

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