Drones converge on California coast (Thinkstock)
Drones converge on California coast
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Surfers catching waves and mountain bikers pedaling through forests are used to the occasional low flying pelican or diving hawk, but these days outdoor recreationists may find that what's up in the air isn't a bird at all, it's a drone.

Last week top drone-makers, along with investors, regulators and inventors, gathered in one of the most popular regions for outdoor activity in the U.S., California's Central Coast. They showed off their devices, heard about new uses for airborne robots and hit the waves and trails.

Drones Data X Conference Santa Cruz ran from May 1 to 3, and also featured experts explaining how unmanned-aerial vehicles can map remote areas or rescue hikers or swimmers.

Federal regulators, who are still sorting out drone rules, were also on hand. They discussed updates on regulations about whether operators need to keep a drone within their line of sight, how high they can go and whether they can fly directly above a person.

"Drones are in a bit of their Wild West period right now. But in the future they'll be used to transport people, medicine, goods. Anything done on a highway will just as well be done by air," conference organizer Philip McNamara said.

Spending on unmanned aerial vehicles is projected to double over the next decade. It should grow from about $6.4 billion a year to $11.5 billion a year. That is according to industry analyst Teal Group.

McNamara said about 90 percent of the venture capital flowing toward drone technologies comes from the nation's high tech hub, Silicon Valley. It's about 30 miles from where the conference was held. Santa Cruz economic development director Bonnie Lipscomb said the city hopes some firms liked what they saw. The area includes sandy beaches and redwood forests.

Local mountain bike and kite surfing companies loaned gear and expertise to the conference.

Sergio Capozzi at the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals said there is both crossover and conflict between outdoor recreationists and drone enthusiasts.

The challenge comes in finding the right balance of when and where drones are appropriate," he said.

As prices go down and drone technology advances, park and wilderness visitors who want to use drones also need to make sure that everyone is having a safe and enjoyable experience, he said. He noted that, on the plus side, drones can be used to gather photos and videos. They would not be accessible otherwise.

"Sharing these experiences encourages others to seek out similar experiences, in particular on public landscapes," he said.

Richard Dolesh is a vice president at the National Recreation and Park Association. He said park managers aren't paying enough attention to increased drone use. He said people who are managing outdoor land and outdoor recreation aren't aware of what it's going to take to effectively manage drones.

Dolesh noted that national parks banned drones. Visitors complained about their noise.

"People travel long distances," he said, "for peace and solitude."

Critical thinking challenge: Why is spending on drones projected to double over the next decade?

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COMMENTS (17)
  • ColeHblue
    5/05/2015 - 12:47 p.m.

    Can drones be swept away i to the ocean by sting wind and If rain occurs is the drone water proof? How can we make these drone be used like Amazons idea to delever packages? How long will these drone be able to fly without someone complaint about them and making a new law against them?

  • Noah M Blue
    5/05/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    I think its cool that people are making drones. in the future i bet there will be drones to help in wars so there are less deaths. I think its going to double because prices are getting lower and more people will be able to buy them making it cost more to make drones.

  • HaleyMBlue
    5/05/2015 - 04:51 p.m.

    I think that drones are a good but at the same time bad because there could be glitches. On the good side they could save people and lives all over the country.

  • brendenp-Goo
    5/06/2015 - 08:48 a.m.

    The spending on drones projected to double over the next decade. The text states that It should grow from about $6.4 billion a year to $11.5 billion a year. That is according to industry analyst Teal Group. The text also states As prices go down and drone technology advances, park and wilderness visitors who want to use drones also need to make sure that everyone is having a safe and enjoyable experience, he said. He noted that, on the plus side, drones can be used to gather photos and videos. They would not be accessible otherwise. The evidence from the text concludes that as our technology for drones and other electronic items increase, so do the need for them.

  • bradant-Goo
    5/06/2015 - 08:52 a.m.

    The spending on drones projected to double over the next decade. The text states it should grow from about $6.4 billion a year to $11.5 billion a year. Drones Data X Conference Santa Cruz ran from May 1 to 3, and also featured experts explaining how unmanned-aerial vehicles can map remote areas or rescue hikers or swimmers. "Drones are in a bit of their Wild West period right now. But in the future they'll be used to transport people, medicine, goods. Anything done on a highway will just as well be done by air," conference organizer Philip McNamara said.

  • treyb-Che
    5/06/2015 - 01:54 p.m.

    Richard Dolesh is the vice president of the National Recreation and Park Association. He said park managers aren't paying enough attention to increased drone use.

  • ConnerC-Kut
    5/07/2015 - 07:44 a.m.

    Really? I wouldn't exactly expect drones to be flying around Florida. Honestly, I don't think that this is a very good idea. Reason why is these drones could become a threat. I know what Sergio Capozzi said, these could be used as a peaceful thing to use for nice experiences in the outdoor world. I'm not quite sure about that.

  • paytont-Lam
    5/07/2015 - 05:27 p.m.

    The reason why the spending on drones projected to double over the next decade is they will add more expensive attachments like live video feeds and or long term batteries just newer and bigger models

  • dylanputman-Goo
    5/08/2015 - 08:44 a.m.

    Spending on drones is expected to double over the next year. Text from the article supports this with, "Drones are in a bit of their Wild West period right now. But in the future they'll be used to transport people, medicine, goods. Anything done on a highway will just as well be done by air," conference organizer Philip McNamara said." The text also states, "McNamara said about 90 percent of the venture capital flowing toward drone technologies comes from the nation's high tech hub, Silicon Valley. It's about 30 miles from where the conference was held. Santa Cruz economic development director Bonnie Lipscomb said the city hopes some firms liked what they saw."

  • amanq-Koc
    5/11/2015 - 01:29 a.m.

    I have some very mixed feelings on drones. Considering that they can come in some small, inconspicuous shapes and sizes they could very well be used to do more harm than good. While the drones are a definite step into the future with the technology they offer and what can come from continued research on them, it can easily be skewed the wrong way. Imagine a drone controlled by a civilian taking illegal photographs of people and places it should be. The fact that they are so difficult to detect could make this a very big issue.

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