What comes to mind when you think of drones? Advancements in technology for the betterment of society? Unmanned aircrafts used to spy on private citizens?

If you aren’t in the drone-world, you may identify with the spy-movie nature of 24/7 drone surveillance. If you’re a drone fanatic, you may picture a utopia with drones buzzing about solving all the world’s problems. How can we bridge that gap and help everyone see an accurate potential for drones? In order to take a deeper dive into drones and the role they can play in the world, Aii sat down with some drone pilots to get their perspective.

It’s no secret that drones pose concerns, namely threats to privacy and cybersecurity. Those threats are self-evident and tend to be the topic of general conversation surrounding drones. While that conversation may be warranted, state and federal legislation is beginning to regulate the legal parameters in which drones can operate. In Florida, for instance, drones are prohibited from being used for surveillance, unless under court order. Other states, such as Alabama, don’t have legislation specific to drone usage. Federally, legislation consists of basic operation guidelines such as not flying near other aircraft and airports, staying within human sight, and flying below 400 feet. Additionally, the FAA requires a certification if you want to make money flying your drone.

Watch our interview to learn more!

For those certified professionals, drones open a world of possibilities for technological advancements. When asked what comes to mind when he thinks of drones, one operator, Chase Gensheimer thought of “the freedom to explore another dimension.”

Gensheimer is a photographer and videographer with his own company, Aerochase. While he uses drones primarily as an artistic and creative tool, his background as an aeronautical engineer provides insight into the power behind the computing within drones.

“The software being developed alongside [drones] really make drones a powerful tool now and moving forward,” Gensheimer explained. One example of high-tech software is the agro-environmental industry, which companies like Flash Forest and Dendra Systems are pioneering. These and other companies pair high-powered software incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning to scan environments, and identify areas for restoration, allowing them to remotely plant thousands of seed pods to preserve and restore forests and agricultural areas.

In urban settings, drones are even impacting public safety and efficiency. Brain Anderson, a project director with Qualis Roofing and Outdoor Living in Arlington, Texas, said drones bring to mind a “technological future that… feels just beyond reach of what was normal just a few years ago.” In his role, Anderson uses drones to inspect roof damage from the ground. He described the safety benefits by saying that with drones, “doing inspections of roofs makes it way safer because it eliminates the risk of putting my feet on the roof.”

Mitigation of danger goes beyond roof inspections. Drones are being used to continually inspect thousands of miles of railroad tracks, interstate highways, and other infrastructure. These uses have obvious safety benefits by keeping inspectors from high-trafficked areas, but also drastically improve efficiency, and have enormous environmental importance by replacing manned road and aviation vehicles. Andrew Borash of Summit Aviation cites drone use for firefighting as a major development to protect human lives.

Whether for photography, construction, firefighting, or more, drones represent a world of possibilities.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), “drones represent the fastest-growing segment in the entire transportation sector – with currently over 1.7 million drone registrations and 203,000 FAA-certificated remote pilots.”

Rusty Squire was one of the first 4,000 FAA-certified remote pilots in the United States. He currently serves as director of photography at the Boseman, Montana-based Slydog Productions. Explaining the critical impact of drones, Squire concluded that “drones are making the world a better place for public safety, being used by police departments [for] search and rescue. They’re being used for agriculture and spray application along with analysis of soil; delivery of medication…” He views drones as one of the key technologies giving people access to a cheaper, better future.

Though drone technology is growing very quickly, familiarity and regulation of the industry is in its infancy. As the popularity of the drone industry grows, so will its abilities, skepticism, and legislation. Stay tuned into Aii as we track innovation in the drone industry.


Written by John Cassibry, Media Coordinator


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.