Roll over, Beethoven; a company in France has specially designed a drone to search and rescue wayward skiers in the Alps and elsewhere.
For much of the public, the word “drone” conjures up grainy footage of explosions, extrajudicial killings and PTSD, but as Motherboard’s documentary on drones noted, airborne robotics has a potential in realms far from the battlefield. Even the most ardent pacifist couldn’t find much fault in something like the Delta-Y.
The Grenoble-based company’s quad-copter style drone is specially designed for the mountain environment—with longer rotor blades to account for thin mountain air. The Delta-Y can operate at almost 11,500 feet, in temperatures as low as 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Its on-board camera can see in Infrared in case of clouds or fog or dark of night.
While dogs are fluent only in the languages of barks, licks and anus sniffing, the Delta Drone has a loudspeaker that can communicate in English, Russian or French (presumably a vestige of how engineers in Grenoble saw the Cold War). So far it isn’t clear whether the drones will carry brandy in little barrels, but stories of St. Bernards doing so are only apocryphal, if not straight-up inventions.
Delta advertises the drone as a way to do cheap aerial cartography or topographical surveying and also a way to communicate with remote avalanche monitoring stations.
The drone is not cheap, coming in at over $2,500, and more than double that if you buy all the options. Doing the same work with helicopter and pilot, however, costs about $2,000 an hour, so, you know, “expensive” is a relative term.
France, an early innovator and still major player in aviation, is trying to get its domestic drone industry off the ground. It was the first country to authorize airspace for civilian-drone use. Delta Drones is also starting the first school for civil drone use.
Concerns about drone warfare and privacy issues are very real and certainly worthy of deep scrutiny and consideration. However, when thinking about new technology that puts eyes in sky, it’s worth considering instances when we really want—and maybe need—to be seen.