Artificial Intelligence Intersects with Drones


In his thirteenth post in the series, Marshall Kirkpatrick focuses on the intersection between artificial intelligence and drones. By way of reminder, Marshall launched a 30 day series that explores the intersection between AI and the various innovation components on my emerging futures visual.

AI Intersects with Drones

As he has in each post, Marshall identifies the key subject matter experts that sit at the intersection of AI and the visual component in question. In the case of drones, the key influencers are: Alison SanderJohn L DavidsonMatt McFarland, and Rosalie Bartlett. Here is the foresight and related future scenarios identified at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and drones (taken straight from Marshall’s post):

Farm optimization:  Large swaths of land could be watered and fertilized more efficiently if monitored by drones flying overhead with computer vision, offering recommendations and watching for problems. Whether that has any impact on anything but the profit margins of large drone-wielding farming corporations will remain to be seen. Scarecrows, though, could have a tough time.

Search, rescue and explore: Startups are building flying drones that are able to learn in real time where paths through the woods are in front of them. This could help with search and rescue of lost humans, and could open up the most remote parts of the world to exploration-by-remote, or AI.  Perhaps AI drones will pilot themselves through endangered ecosystems, recording 360 videos for humans to watch in VR, and motivating a conservation ethic.  Perhaps humans will simply feel more comfortable getting lost, knowing a low-cost drone could guide them home.

War fighting: AI fighter pilots could fight alone, or they could ride co-pilot to humans. This Summer an AI air combat system, named ALPHA, reportedly ran circles around one of the best human fighter pilots alive.  This could change the international balance of power in ways that less precise high-tech weapons have not.  Major ethical questions will need to be addressed, and that conversation’s already begun.

As Marshall indicates in the post, it’s already happening. He uses Aquila – the Facebook Internet beaming drone – as an example. Instead of beaming down internet access in a big dumb cone of connectivity, it will use deep learning to analyze photos of small patches of earth for evidence of human life.  Then they prioritize those relatively few places that they believe people will be.

The intersection analysis that Marshall pursues via his posts is a great example of deriving the foresight required to navigate in this emerging future. Future thinking – the rehearsal of our emerging future – is increasingly a critical but complex piece of the equation going forward. The other posts in the series on AI and intersections can be found via the links below:

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