One of the most iconic science fiction movies ever is The Terminator. Not only is it an entertaining movie with a legendary cast, but the film takes a look at what our (admittedly dark) future could look like. One iconic image is of hunter-killer drones that are hunting the last humans remaining on earth.

While we aren’t yet at the point of Skynet wiping out humanity, The Terminator foreshadowed one of the mega-trends that is making waves in our world today. We are talking about drone technology. This technology has proliferated over the past few years, making its presence known in sectors like agriculture, law enforcement, and civil engineering. And while we don’t yet have Amazon drones dropping off packages at all of our doors, the future may be closer than we think.

This is a mega-trend that is not going away. Therefore, it is worth our time to explore where this disruptive technology is now and where it is headed in the future. Doing so will help you anticipate the continued evolution of this technology.

Current Applications

Even today, this technology places a massive role in countless numbers of industries. One of the most significant benefits of drone technology is that individuals and companies can access cheap aerials of people or things. One of the most recognizable applications is in the military and law enforcement. Military drones not only provide constant surveillance over conflict zones, but they have the capability of engaging individuals when necessary. As for law enforcement, drones can be used for surveillance or public safety. For instance, if law enforcement is looking for a fugitive, it can use this technology to canvass a larger territory in a shorter period of time.

But beyond these applications, this technology is already making a difference in civilian life. Agriculture, for instance, is a key sector for this disruptive technology and it just started. Using drones, large-scale farmers can better monitor their crops. Drones can not only lead to healthier crop growth, but they can lead to increased yields. This technology have also played a large part in film and journalism. Photographers and videographers can use quadcopters and other drones to capture unique footage. Filmmakers have use them to shoot footage for well-known films and television shows like The Wolf of Wall Street, Skyfall, and Game of Thrones. Footage that used to be cost-prohibitive is now available for everyone from independent filmmakers to journalists working in challenging conditions. From disaster management to even monitoring hurricanes and other hazardous weather events, drone technology is being used in new and creative ways.

The Future of Drone Technology

While there are plenty of useful applications of drone technology today, the future of drone technology is tremendously exciting. Several technologies can make drones even more effective and useful.

The first game-changing technology is hydrogen power. One of the current issues with drone technology centers on power. Current drones need to be recharged between flights or need to rely on batteries that don’t allow for long flight times. With hydrogen fuel cells, however, drone flights will not only last longer, but will be cheaper. While there are many barriers to hydrogen adoption, several recent developments have been promising.

Next, there is computer vision and motion planning. The increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence will allow drones to navigate complex and unfamiliar environments without a human pilot. Again, the technology isn’t quite there yet, but researchers are making rapid progress.

Finally, there is making drones behave like animals. Specifically, there has been interesting research and development in making drones “perch” (in other words, maintaining their altitude without expending energy or deviating from their mission). In the future, we may see drones perched on buildings and street lights to reduce power consumption.

A True Mega-Trend

Drone technology is already making a large dent into the established practices of many industries. Whether drones have totally upended your business practices or simply presented a compelling alternative in your industry, it is absolutely worth your time to pay attention to this mega-trend.

This technology is not going to remain stagnant. The technology is going to improve—both in the near-term and long-term future. Therefore, spend some time studying this technology, especially as this technology will eventually become the fuel for Internet of Things (“IoT”)