In 1998, aircraft designer Paul MacCready gave a live demo of his two-ounce unmanned surveillance drone on the TED stage in Monterey. “You see what it sees. Imagine you’re a fly,” he told the assembled audience, who watched the drone’s footage projected onto the screen in front of them. (The moment is captured in the GIF below.) To the crowd’s delight, the drone whizzed overhead, circling the auditorium and beaming back live video imagery.
“Where all this leads, I don’t know,” MacCready acknowledged. “Is it practical? I don’t know.”
The 15 ensuing years have answered that question comprehensively. Drones are not only practical, they’re now a fact of life. They’ve come a long way since MacCready’s rudimentary black-and-white film-shooting prototype… and more have also had their moment on the TED stage. In 2012, Regina Dugan, then the director of DARPA, showed off a drone designed to resemble an innocuous humming…
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