Drones are about to come home to roost - in a big way.
Sure, they'll still be used for missions overseas. But now they'll also be employed by the Federal Highway Administration to help human workers safeguard the United States' 4 million miles of highways, according to Discovery News. Their main tasks would probably be watching for major traffic jams and accidents, keeping an eye on aging bridges and roads, and surveying lands with laser mapping capabilities.
As Discovery reports:
"Drones could keep workers safer because they won't be going into traffic or hanging off a bridge," said Javier Irizarry, director of the CONECTech Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It would help with physical limitations of the human when doing this kind of work."
Irizarry gave the example of the spherical drones that mapped a huge alien base in the 2012 science fiction film "Prometheus" as an analogy for how today's larger drones could aid in above-ground laser mapping.
"We're going to look at the different divisions that has and see how they do things like surveying, safety monitoring or using traffic cameras," Irizarry told TechNewsDaily. "Maybe they could be using drone technology for a similar purpose."
Meanwhile, many states are competing to become flight-test regions for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which is a step on the agency's path to opening U.S. civilian airspace to drones by 2015.