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Just a few years ago, drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were virtually unknown.
But the remote-controlled aircraft have stealthily slipped over the horizon and are now causing a buzz from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to the rain forests of Sumatra.
"I am convinced that the domestic use of drones to conduct surveillance and collect other information will have a broad and significant impact on the everyday lives of millions of Americans," Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of a Senate Judiciary Committee looking into drone legislation, said on Thursday (March 21), CNN reports.
There's little doubt that UAV technology is here to stay, but their use isn't limited to cloak-and-dagger operations and military technology. Here are just a few ways the drone can be your friend:
JournalismSlide 2 of 19
JournalismBesides learning how to create a snappy headline, journalism students at the University of Missouri in Columbia are taking drone flying lessons. The top-ranked J-school is now offering a class in drones as info-gathering tools. Students are learning to use the devices for video, photography, investigative reporting and more. "I think there will be a demand for it, just like any technology in the journalism tool box," Bill Allen, the professor who leads the course, told ABC News.Slide 3 of 19
Hunting and anti-huntingSlide 4 of 19
Hunting and anti-hunting
Wild hogs ruining your crops? Get yourself a "Dehogaflier," a drone devised by engineer Cy Brown of Bunkie, La., which uses a heat-sensing camera to find feral hogs at night. The drone saves time otherwise wasted wandering muddy fields in the dark.
"Now you can know in 15 minutes if it’s worth going out," Brown told the New York Times.
Drones have also been used by animal-rights advocates to determine if illegal hunting is taking place, even on private property. Drones equipped with video cameras are being used by the League Against Cruel Sports, a British animal-rights group, to spot instances of illegal fox hunting.Slide 5 of 19
Sports photographySlide 6 of 19
Falkor Systems, a pioneer in the consumer use of UAV technology, has targeted extreme sports photography and video for drone use, focusing on skiing and base-jumping activities.
"The angles people get [while filming] are not quite as intimate as would be possible with an autonomous flying robot,” said Sameer Parekh, Falkor CEO, who envisions a small UAV device that can accompany a downhill skier.
"You just take it out, let it take off and it follows you down the hill. You get back on the ski lift and put it back in your backpack," Parekh said.Slide 7 of 19
Highway monitoringSlide 8 of 19