What good can drones do? They can do a lot of things, and the possibilities reach far beyond the general public’s imagination.
When people think of them, they might think of accidents and injuries, and see them as dangerous devices. Even the authorities that regulate them are no exception, as the Regulations of Drone (遙控無人機管理規則) that went into effect on July 23 last year are full of restrictions and penalties.
The use of drones has indeed exceeded the public’s imagination.
First, they are the best tool for boosting tourism and promoting Taiwan. This is where the strength of camera drones lies. For little or no compensation, enthusiastic Taiwanese have recorded the beauty of Taiwan from a bird’s-eye view with drones. This kind of footage is excellent material for marketing Taiwan globally.
Next, drones flying in groups can be used for performances. At last year’s Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung County, the drone light show was perhaps the greatest selling point for attracting tourists.
The spectacular show, which was performed by 300 drones from the US, made Pingtung residents proud. Some people might not know that locally developed drone light shows now employ as many as 400 units.
Drones are also the best “eyes” in rescue missions. When an elderly woman went missing near the banks of the Gaoping River (高屏溪) in Pingtung County two years ago, a search mission using seven or eight drones was quickly launched after people put out a call for help on Facebook.
Although the woman was eventually found dead, it was a successful mobilization and application of drones.
Furthermore, drones are an effective tool for environmental inspections. In Pingtung, air pollution is often caused by people burning garbage. The Pingtung Environmental Protection Bureau has been using drones to conduct inspections and collect evidence of burning, and the results have been fruitful.
Drones are useful for spraying pesticides, making them convenient and efficient farming equipment. Using precise GPS coordinates, they can accurately calculate an area to be sprayed at a farm, as well as the distance between each pesticide or fertilizer spray, precisely and efficiently.
Drones are also considered a secret firefighting weapon. When equipped with a “thermal imager,” a drone can help lock in on the origin of a fire from the sky and provide useful data when determining disaster response.
In terms of various other purposes, such as security maintenance, home delivery, air transport, topographic surveying and weather forecasting, drones have been actively applied or tested in many countries around the world, with the civil sector being the driving force.
Although the Taiwanese government has been turning a blind eye to drone development, other countries are making constant progress.
In particular, China’s drone-technology industry has far surpassed Taiwan’s. Drones have been used in COVID-19 prevention efforts, ranging from taking people’s temperature to delivering medical supplies.
If the Taiwanese government continues to restrain and suppress the development of drones, it would only widen the gap between Taiwan and China.
Whether drones are an opportunity or a threat, a resource or a burden, depends on the government’s frame of mind. It can choose to be the enemy of drone users by setting restrictions, or to be their strategic partner, as drones become an infinite resource. It is all a matter of choice.
Honda Yeah is a journalist for TVBS.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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