Drones converge on California coast (Thinkstock)
Drones converge on California coast

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 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. They were in one of the most popular regions for outdoor activity in the U.S. It's California's Central Coast. They showed off their devices. They also heard about new uses for airborne robots. And, they hit the waves and trails.

The meeting was the Drones Data X Conference Santa Cruz. It ran from May 1 to 3 and also featured experts. They explained how unmanned-aerial vehicles can map remote areas or rescue hikers or swimmers.

Federal regulators are still sorting out drone rules. They were on hand to discuss updates on regulations. Those discussions included 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 investment money flowing toward drone technologies comes from the nation's high tech hub. That's Silicon Valley. It's about 30 miles from where the conference was held. Santa Cruz economic development director Bonnie Lipscomb said the city hoped some firms will liked what they saw. The area includes sandy beaches and redwood forests.

Local mountain bike and kite surfing companies are 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.

"There is likely an appropriate time and place for drones in nature. The challenge comes in finding the right balance of when and where drones are appropriate," he said.

Prices are expected to go down and drone technology will advance. Park and wilderness visitors who want to use drones also need to make sure that everyone is having a safe and enjoyable experience, Capozzi 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?

Assigned 110 times

  • DarbyC-Kut
    5/04/2015 - 05:09 p.m.

    I like the idea of drones from a experience perspective so you can take more interesting photos. Its also a good idea for a militant perspective so we can warn our solders of enemy positions. But if drone tech is getting better and cheaper than our enemy's can use it to.

  • antont-Sch
    5/04/2015 - 05:34 p.m.

    I think people should make flying drones safer and have more uses. I think It will be affordable and I think I will fly one someday.

  • CameronS-2
    5/04/2015 - 07:24 p.m.

    This article is about the use of your own and what they are used for in modern-day times. Many people use them for aerial photography and Ferb movies but others use them to find places where they've never seen before some people trust pass others properties using them. I feel that drones are moving faster than laws can be put on them.

  • CarsonP-2
    5/04/2015 - 07:29 p.m.

    People are still deciding if drones are going to be used safely. Sometimes drones are very dangerous and could kill people with the powerful blade. Drones can also affect privacy.

    • JustinPreston-Ste
      5/06/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

      Sometimes drones can be a bad thing but they can also be a good thing because they can help you out with shopping or trying to clean the house.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    5/04/2015 - 08:19 p.m.

    I think that it is going to be cool for drones that in the future, it will deliver people to place, medicines, also goods to people to far away places, but it might fail because it is is remote controlled so people with a remote controlled drone can't see the drone or how far it went. Well if drones are going to be great in the future, I think that it might lead people to laziness.

  • EthanJ-Dis
    5/05/2015 - 11:51 a.m.

    were is this plase the sale the . it kill you . the is fun to play was it many mony do cast. who can in fly in the can chren in . how is the. cool dud

  • JasonGRed
    5/05/2015 - 11:53 a.m.

    Drones can be dangerous if they get out of hand, they can hurt people with there dangerous blades.
    These drones can also affect peoples privacy at times if it gets to that point.

  • JoseFBlue
    5/05/2015 - 11:56 a.m.

    If a drone can into a park,beach I would not like because people come from far away to relax and a drone just comes and makes a lot of nose so I think they should not put drones were people go for peace and relax time with their family or friends.

  • MorganAblue
    5/05/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    Spending on drones is projected to double over the next decade because I think that they will become even more popular that they already are and i also think that some of the big companies are going to start using them for shipping and that they might even get to the point where they can transport people and heavy objects if we can get to the point to make them strong enough.

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