SMALL multicopter drones—souped-up versions of those sold by the million as Christmas toys—have tremendous potential for use in industry and agriculture. Rather than erecting scaffolding or bringing in a mechanical platform to inspect things like roofs and chimneys, the job can be done instantly, and probably for less money, by sending up a drone-mounted camera. Drones can also fly along pipelines and power cables, checking for damage faster than a ground-based operation could manage. Similarly, they can survey fields for signs of pest or drought at a fraction of the cost of a manned flight.
Most existing drones do, however, need to be flown by an experienced operator. Indeed, the law often requires this. Drones also need technical support and maintenance. And the people operating them need an understanding of the legal and safety implications.