Futurist Thomas Frey: The thought occurred to me that mounting a video projector to a flying drone could give it unusual capabilities.
My first idea was to use it for special effects at a concert or major indoor event. But a device like this could also be used for spot advertising – creating momentary images on the sidewalk or parking lot; subliminal advertising – suggesting a variety of products or services inside graphic images; emergency rescue – displaying a series of arrows to help someone lost in a forest; or image masking – to disguise someone’s body and facial features to prevent them from being monitored.
This line of thinking started me down several dozen new paths almost instantly.
Drones can be low flying, high flying, tiny or huge, silent or noisy, super-visible or totally invisible, your best friend or your worst enemy.
We can add lights, sound, cameras, microphones, sensors, robotic arms, wave cancellation technology, or wave enhancement technology.
Simply adding a robotic display will enable us to fly in and have a private video conversation with someone on the other side of the world.
Flying drones can also roll along the ground, stick to the side of a building, float in a river, dive under water, jump onto a building, climb a tree, or attach themselves like parasites to the sides of trains, ships, and airplanes.
One moment they can be hovering in front of you and the next they can fly off at the speed of sound, disappearing into the clouds.
Combining all these capabilities, attributes, and special features into one single device will open up a world of possibilities unlike anything before in all history.
Join me as we step into the magical world ahead being unleashed with this amazing new technology – flying drones.
Introducing the Triple Checkerboard
I’ve developed a brainstorming technique called the “checkerboard” as a way to generate ideas. It’s a very simple idea – start with eight categories and list eight items in each category, enough to fill all 64 spaces on a checkerboard.
When I’m feeling extra creative, I’ll generate enough ideas to fill two checkerboards – 128 of them.
But it’s only in my most masochistic moments that I’ve decided to torture myself into coming up with a full triple checkerboard of 192 ideas. This requires a little prep work to get into the mental zone for rapid idea generation.
Naturally, jumping into an epiphany fest like this involves editing out all the goofy ones, and few others too esoteric to be meaningful.
As promised, here are the 24 categories I’ve created, with 8 examples in each category.
Tiny handheld drone
Early Warning Systems – How different would the world be if we had some advance warning that a disaster was about to happen? Each of these will require sensor swarms capable of detecting tiny changes to our atmosphere or surrounding environments.
1. Earthquake Warning Networks
2. Hurricane Monitoring Swarms
3. Tornado Warning Systems
4. Hail Preventer/Sound Cannons
5. Avalanche Preventer/Sound Cannons
6. Impending Flood Alert Systems
7. Tsunami Forecasting Systems
8. Forest Fire Preventers
First responder “get eyes on it” drone
9. Missing Child Drone – Much like a hunting dog, capable of tracking the smell of the child.
10. Thermo Sensor Drones – For avalanche rescue.
11. Infrared Sensor Drones – For early forest fire detection.
12. Insect Killing Drones – Kill the insects before they kill you.
13. Poacher Drones – Tracking animals in danger of being poached.
14. Endangered Species Drone – Signals whenever an endangered species is in danger.
15. Eyes on the Problem Drone – Whenever a city receives word that there is a problem, their first response will be to send up a drone to “get eyes on it.”
16. Missing Pet Drone – Many will pay dearly to find a missing pet.
Channel 5 News with drone coverage
17. Accident/Incident Monitoring – High altitude monitors search for whenever a series of elevated heart rates show up, and drone will instantly zoom in for a closer look, alerting those monitoring the feed. Once an accident or incident has been detected, a series of other drones will be called in to record the entire event.
18. Time-Lapse Weather Drones – Capturing the big picture over an extended period of time from virtually any angle.
19. Protestor Cams – Wherever large groupings of people gather, drone monitoring will alert news organizations to meaningful activities.
20. Man-on-the-Street Interview Drone – Questions and answers done with common people on the street.
21. Real-Time Stats Drone – Recording everything from traffic counts, to people tendencies, to air quality, to brand preferences, to A-B testing, and more.
22. Rapid Comment/Interview Drones – Whenever a major political decision is made, “interview drones” are instantly deployed to capture public sentiment.
23. Locker Room Drones – Rapid interviews with athletes after major victories/losses.
24. Photo Drones – Spatial positioning to capture the perfect photo from the perfect angle.
Several companies are testing drone delivery services
25. PO Box Drones – Your post office box, once it’s been filled, will lift off and deliver the mail directly to you.
26. Medical Prescription Delivery – 24-hour, any time, any place.
27. Grocery Delivery – Already in use.
28. Mail, Package Delivery – Already in use.
29. Anticipatory Delivery – Automated systems anticipate a failure and preemptively order replacement parts.
30. Send-It-Back Return Drones – Clothes don’t fit or it’s not what you ordered, no problem.
31. Direct from the Farm Produce – Fresh peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cherries, and grapes any time of the year.
32. Banquet Catering Drones – Lavish feasts flown in at a moments notice.
Overhead thermoscan energy audit of building
Business Activity Monitoring
33. Construction Monitoring – Real time monitoring of building projects, even on the other side of the earth.
34. Topological Surveying – Rapid surveying systems to speed development projects.
35. Instant Environmental Impact Assessment – Instantly monitor, anticipate, and record environmental changes on any project.
36. Power Line Monitoring Drones – Checking for problems, deterioration, and signs of danger.
37. Thermo Imaging of Buildings – To spot heat loss.
38. Sensitive Product Shipping – Monitor shipping and handling of delicate products all the way from manufacturer to end customer.
39. Open Seas Pirate Monitoring Drones – Once they are spotted, send in the pirate attack drones.
40. Geological Surveying – Next-gen mapping of oil and mineral deposits.
Oculus rift controller for Parrot Bebop Drone
41. Three Dimensional Chess Drones – What’s the fun in 2D chess when you can fly your knight or rook in for a perfect kill? Checkmate!
42. World of Warcraft in Space – Working outside the limitations of two-dimensional displays, augmented reality drone games will introduce a whole new dimension to gaming.
43. Three Dimensional Treasure Hunts – Finding unusual objects in unusual places.
44. Drone Jousting Matches – The collisions will be spectacular.
45. Monster Truck Vs. Flying Drone Matches – Who wouldn’t pay to see this?
46. Drone Racing – The drone version of the Indianapolis 500.
47. Drone Obstacle Courses – Great training for aspiring drone pilots.
48. Drone Hunting Season – Forget the clay pigeons, this is far more challenging.
AirDog automatically follows and films you
49. Perfect Athlete’s Performance Sphere – Perfect weather dome formed over athlete – creating perfect humidity, temp, air pressure, etc. – to enhance athletic performance. Also shouting words of encouragement that no one else can hear.
50. Space Racing Camera Drones – Enabling audiences on earth to witness the drama unfolding as drivers race spaceships.
51. Personal Trainer Drones – Totally relentless in making you work out.
52. Instant Landing Pad – Much like an instant airbag flown in and inflated at a moment’s notice.
53. Marathon Trackers – Following the progress from miles away.
54. Runner’s Metabolism Tracker – Watch how your body changes in real-time.
55. Bareback Drone Riders – Rodeo has a new sport.
56. Outdoor Bowling – Levitating bowling game that operates 1’ above the ground, with a floating ball return.
57. Comedian Drone – Flies in and performs random acts of comedy.
58. Magician Drone – Flies in and performs random acts of magic.
59. Concert Swarm – Spatial cacophony of sound coming from 1,000 speaker drones simultaneously.
60. Drone Circus – Entertainment in a whole different realm.
61. Performance Art Swarms – Visual swarm ballet where our imagination is the only limiting factor.
62. Mega Photo Stitching Competitions – With thousands of drones photographing an image simultaneously, this will be the process used to create the world’s highest resolution image.
63. Prankster Drones – Send random stuff to random people and video their reactions.
64. Fireworks Dropping Drones – Our ability to “ignite and drop” fireworks from the sky will dramatically change both how they’re made and the artistry used to display them.
Video projector drone
65. Spot Advertising – Project momentary images or commercials on the sidewalk or parking lot in front of members of your target audience.
66. Subliminal Advertising – Project scenic or artistic images on walls, trees, and surfaces, each with hidden messages suggesting a variety of products or services inside the graphics and images.
67. Multimedia Formations – Swarms morphing and shape-shifting into giant three-dimensional logos and messaging.
68. Banner Pulling Drones – Old school advertising brought closer to earth.
69. Food and Product Sampler Drones – Since fewer people will be going to stores, they can sample new things on a regular basis.
70. Grandstanding Drones – Using drones to do something spectacular.
71. Flying Strobe Drones – To draw a crowd.
72. Fresh Bread Drones – The smell of fresh bread always turns people’s heads.
Helicopter drone used to monitor crops
Farming and Agriculture – As the cost of operating drones drops, they will reach a point of efficiency where it becomes profitable to have a micro drone pick and transport a single kernel of wheat 1,000 miles to its final destination.
73. Artificial Bees – Rapid pollination drones.
74. Seeding Drones – Swarmbots planting one kernel at a time.
75. Insect Monitoring Drones – Rapid identification of all insects, bugs, worms, and mites. Also executes all of the bad ones, keeping track of bug body count.
76. Fertilizer Monitoring Drones – Even trace elements can make a huge difference.
77. Disease Monitoring Drones – Even a small outbreak can be disastrous.
78. Bird Frightening Drones – For crops like sunflowers where birds can destroy an entire field in a matter of hours.
79. Crop Fogger Drones – When temperatures get below freezing.
80. Harvesting Drones – One kernel at a time if necessary.
Animal herding/monitoring drones
Ranching Drones – Tracking animal movements, pregnancies, eating patterns, weight gains-losses, and any signs of danger. Each form of livestock will require different sensors, tracking systems, and monitoring equipment.
81. Cow Monitors
82. Horse Shadowers
83. Pig Monitors
84. Bee Observers
85. Sheep Trackers
86. Chicken Monitors
87. Turkey Trackers
88. Duck & Geese Monitors
Police Drones – The police will use drones to track down criminals and even for search and rescue missions. They’re a cost-effective alternative to manned helicopters.
89. Drug Sniffing Drones – Faster and more versatile than bloodhounds.
90. Political Corruption Sniffing Drones – Faster and more versatile than whistleblowers…. Maybe!
91. High Speed Chase Drones – The chase is over even before it starts.
92. Domestic Violence Monitors – Remote monitoring of potentially volatile situations.
93. Child Abuse Monitors – When in doubt, these hovering nanny-cams will provide close scrutiny.
94. Neighborhood Watch Cams – Patrolling the neighborhood even when the neighbors are gone.
95. Ankle Bracelet Replacement Drones – Adjusted to the freedoms stipulated by the courts with more real-time data.
96. Instant Court Drones – Your day in court may only be minutes after receiving your ticket.
Smart Home Drones
97. Airbrush Swarm – Add artistic murals to your walls in seconds.
98. Dusting Drone – Cleans walls, shelves, countertops, and virtually every other surface.
99. Lawn Manicuring Drone – Perfect lawns every time.
100. Leaf Raking Drones – Menial labor is a thing of the past.
101. Home Security Drones – Whether the threat is coming from the sky or on the ground, these drones will spot the problem, alert the owners, alert authorities, and rain fire and brimstone down on any intruders.
102. 3D Printer Repair Drone – Whenever a crack or damage occurs, the 3D printer drone will fly in and print a perfect patch every time.
103. Special Drone Docks – To allow 24-7 drone deliveries, and to alert you when they arrive.
104. Diaper Changing Drones – I have no idea how this one will work, but once perfected, the demand will be off the charts.
105. Real Estate Photography Drones – Real estate agents, especially those selling high-end homes, use drones to fly over their listed properties and capture aerial footage of the grounds and surrounding neighborhoods.
106. Atmospheric Water Harvesting Drones – Fly to high humidity areas, suck moisture from the air, and deliver it within minutes.
107. Home Inspection Drones – Find the problems before spending too much time on a property.
108. Battery Replacement Drones – Replace the batteries in your house, much like replacing the batteries in your clock.
109. Trash Removal Drones – Off grid living at it’s best.
110. Sewage Removal Drones – To distant leech fields.
111. Insurance Adjuster Drones – Filing a claim will never been easier.
112. Instant Listing Drone – Put your house up for sale in a matter of minutes.
University of South Florida plans to let students checkout drones at its library
Library Drones – As we enter the drone era, the library/sharing economy will take on some interesting new dimensions.
113. Tool Loaning Libraries – Borrow a drill, wrench, socket set, welding torch, hammer, plane, power saw, soldering iron, or more.
114. Emergency Equipment Loaning Libraries – Emergency generators, emergency lighting, first aid kits, etc.
115. Pet Lending Library – Animal shelters or fraction pet ownership kennels will be able to fly your pet to you at a moments notice.
116. 24-Hour Books, Audio Books, Videos, Artwork, & Information Archives – On demand library services delivered right to your home.
117. Tech Lending Library – If you find an old Commodore 64 disc or Atari Space Invaders cartridge and want to have a retro weekend, just borrow one of the original computers or game consoles to make it happen.
118. Borrow an Expert Library – Flying video screen with a live connection so you can have a brief conversation with an expert who can answer your questions.
119. Borrow a Big Brother – Companionship with a drone chaperone.
120. Drone Lending Library – Borrow a drone. It will come to you.
Titan Aerospace solar powered WiFi drone!
Military and Spy Uses – In 2010 the U.S. Military spent $4.5 billion on drones. By 2018, that number is expected to reach $18.7 billion.
121. Missile Launching Drones – Already in use.
122. Bomb-Dropping Drones – Already in use.
123. Flying Camouflage Drones – Visually masking everything below.
124. Communication Disruptors – Creating zero-communication zones over targeted areas.
125. Battlefield Medical Supply Drones – Providing almost instant source of supplies and equipment for battlefield injuries.
126. Invisible Spy Drones – Too small to see, with rolling, jumping, flying, attach to anything capabilities.
127. Heat Seeking Bullet Drone – Perhaps the most dangerous weapon ever to be invented, this bullet-size drone can be shot from thousands of miles away at a specific target, and never miss.
128. Solar Powered High-Altitude WiFi Drones – In March 2014, Facebook purchased Ascenta, a solar-powered drone company based in the UK. Facebook intends to use the high-altitude flyers as part of a network of linked satellites, drones and lasers that can beam Internet to remote communities from the sky. In April 2014, Google purchased its own solar-powered drone company: Titan Aerospace. The company designs ultra-lightweight, solar-powered planes that fly high above commercial air traffic and can remain aloft for up to five years.
129. Humanitarian Applications – Researchers at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology are developing drones that can deliver vaccines and other critical medical supplies to remote locations in the developing world.
130. Canary Drones – Test out air quality inside mines and other questionable air environments.
131. Body Sphere Monitoring – Swarm of micro drones to monitor any changes in a person’s energy fields.
132. Hovering Health Monitors – Real time tracking, measuring, and analyzing body movements.
133. Physical Movement Analysis – Therapeutic monitoring of all physical movement to analyze strengths and efficiencies and suggest ways to improve.
134. Skin Care Monitor – Tracking overall skin and dermis health.
135. Seeing Eye Drone – Replacing the seeing-eye dog.
136. Infectious Disease Monitoring Drone – Will alert you whenever you’re about to come into close proximity with someone carrying a contagious disease.
Cal Poly students’ “SkyBarge” won American Society of Mechanical Engineers drone competition
137. Historical Reference – “At this location on Oct 18, 1963 a meeting was held to decide the fate….”
138. Real-Time Perspectives – “A civil war is currently being fought between rival factions and these are before and after scenes of the main transportation route through their country…”
139. Geometric Shapes – Drones used to form patterns in space, showing the math behind calculating angles, volumes, areas, and relationships.
140. The Question & Answer Drone – Wherever you walk, this drone will pose a constant series of questions to challenge your understanding of the world around you. Correct answers will be given after three attempts.
141. Documentary Drones – Film and motion picture companies using drones for aerial footage, because drones are quieter and don’t vibrate as much as helicopters.
142. Language Partner Drone – Learn a foreign language with an interactive drone partner.
143. Basic Math Drones – Real math problems done with three-dimensional examples, unfolding before your eyes.
144. SAT-ACT Prep Drone – Constant testing until you’re ready for prime time.
Science & Discovery
145. Archeology – A team of archaeologists uncovered structures thought to be from an ancient Native American village in New Mexico using drones equipped with heat-sensing cameras. The thermal images enabled the researchers to see beneath the desert floor, which helped them locate the buried structures.
146. Whale Watching – Real time tracking of whale pods everywhere in the world.
147. Bird Migration – Real time tracking of birds as they move through their migratory patterns.
148. Forest Health – Map everything from bark beetles, to pine beetles, to spruce beetles, to disease patterns, and more.
149. Ocean Currents – Using temperature sensors to do real time tracking of warm water currents.
150. Aurora Borealis – Real time tracking of the northern lights and the underlying colliding solar winds and magnetospheric charged particles.
151. Solar Flare Monitoring – Using a diverse pattern of solar-watching drones, scientists will be able to do real time monitoring of all solar activity with far greater precision than anything used today.
152. Earth Noise Monitoring – Establishing a wide configuration of listening posts throughout the atmosphere to listen to the shifting noise patterns of the earth itself.
Future commuter drone!
Travel Drones – Oddly enough, flying drones will replace our need for flying cars.
153. Commuter Drones
154. Taxi-Limo Drones
155. Bar Hopping Drone
156. Tourist Attraction Drones
157. Hop-on-Hop-off Drones
158. Emergency Rescue Drones
159. Trucking Drones
160. Overnight Sleeper Drones
UAV with robotic arm
Robotic Arm Drones – Add a robotic arm to a flying drone and a person’s mind begins to swirl with possibilities.
161. Hazardous Material Drones
162. Transporting Dangerous Chemical Drones
163. Rescuing Dangerous Animal Drones
164. Chess-Playing Drones
165. Arm Wrestling Drones
166. Spot-Welding in Difficult Places Drones
167. Mechanical Repair in Difficult Places Drones
168. Space Junk Removal Drones
Reality Distortion Fields – Steve Job’s secret talent applied to drones. This involves our ability to distort virtually every form of our sensory perceptions.
169. Odor Cancellation – Eliminate bad odors and make every bathroom, landfill, and pig farm smell like springtime.
170. Sound & Noise Cancellation – Noisy neighbors can be a thing of the past.
171. Visible Light Cancellation – Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak done with drones.
172. Magnifying Drones – Make distant object appear closer.
173. De-Magnifying Drones – Make close objects seem further away.
174. Color Changing Drones – Distort the visible light spectrum to whatever you desire.
175. Thermo Cannons – To blast heat into whatever may need heat.
176. Voices in Our Head Drones – Silent invisible drone that talks to us. With a little voodoo programming the voice can sound exactly like a person’s own voice. Bad guys and terrorists can be influenced and maybe even grow a conscious without ever knowing they’re being externally manipulated.
Periscope drone, capable of seeing far beyond what’s on the ground
177. Personal Periscopes – Want to see over a tall building? No problem, and you can even view the image on your smartphone.
178. Plant Communicator Drones – If we listen closely, every plant is speaking to us.
179. Frisbee Turbo Fliers – Comes with a self-balancing turbo booster to assist Frisbee gamers everywhere.
180. Shade Drones – Too much sun, no problem. The drone clouds are here!
181. Mosquito-Free Zone Drones – Keeps all of these pesky critters away.
182. Dating Drone – Spots nearby potential dating partners who fall into your compatibility categories.
183. Relevancy Drone – To filter out anything that’s not relevant.
184. Elevator Drones – Set up to move people on the outside of buildings, also with the capability of doing building hopping.
Will floating drone cities ever be possible?
Far Out Concepts
185. Massive Flying Drone Resorts – Think of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas hovering at 1,000-foot altitude. Paradise in the clouds.
186. Artificial Earthworms – Microbe-sized swarmbots can be built to “chew their way through” landfills and fields of toxic material as a way of improving the rate of decomposition and lowing toxicity levels.
187. Personal Prep Swarms – Once we step out of the shower in the morning, the swarmbots will dry our skin, fix our hair, and take their place as part of our ever-changing wardrobe.
188. Swarm Clothing – Flying swarmbots will serve as our clothing, flying into “clothing formation” on command, reconfiguring themselves according to our fashion moods, changing color on a whim.
189. Protective Swarms – Flying swarmbots will be capable of forming shields to protect people from too much sun, too much wind, and even temperature extremes. In personal confrontations, swarmbots will form a protective shield around people, keeping them safe.
190. Mental Conduit Swarms – Swarmbots will serve as an information conduit for our minds, forming antennae to capture wireless transmissions, forming an information-processing array for the data, floating visual displays that only we can see.
191. Remote Viewing Swarms – Remote viewing from anywhere, at any time, from any angle, will be possible as the swarm moves into whatever position we ask it to. This “eye in the sky” can range from several miles across on one extreme to a micrometer across on the other.
192. Superman Swarm – With flying swarms that serve as our clothing, the next step will be for them to evolve into an exoskeleton of sorts for physical enhancement. Flying swarms will give of superhuman strength, superhuman durability, and even the ability to fly.
The purpose of composing this rather exhaustive list is not an attempt to cover everything, but rather to show the enormous versatility of this platform.
The complete list of will easily include over 10,000 listings.
Some may think that drones will become the most annoying devices on earth. In many cases that might be true.
Without the proper protections, drones can be dangerous. The same drones that deliver food and water can also deliver bombs and poison. We may very well have drones watching the workers who watch the drones, and even that may not be enough.
Eventually we’ll find the positive uses far outweigh the negative ones, and we’ll develop the right systems to make it all workable.
As we go down this path, we’ll also be unleashing millions of new startups that are destined to drive the economy for decades, if not centuries, to come.
Author of “Communicating with the Future” - the book that changes everything