I am of that generation that can remember the days before mobile phones and who still marvels at the capabilities of even the most basic smartphone.
One of the technologies that made the mobile phone possible is the high-capacity lithium-ion battery: small, light and powerful.
Another is the use of rare earth magnets to create micro-electric motors.
With the advent of these powerful, lightweight components, something else became possible: electric remote-controlled aircraft.
Already those toy helicopters that were such a sensation a few Christmases ago are old-hat. Go into your local high-street electronics retailer and for less than £1,000 you can pick up a highly sophisticated, extremely controllable, camera-equipped drone capable of flying hundreds of metres for up to half an hour on a single charge.
It’s a great toy. But its pro-grade big brothers are practical tools with massive potential; businesses are still catching up with the technology and new applications are being discovered all the time.
In construction, the health and safety issues of working at height are well known and ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ (as they are properly called) offer a cheap and virtually risk-free method of visual inspection. And as our feature beginning on page 24 explains, they can do a lot more besides.
The Year in Review
Eye in the sky