A decade ago, drones were expensive, clunky, loud, and inaccessible outside of a regulated testing environment. Today, you can buy a drone with serious enterprise and cloud capabilities off-the-shelf at Walmart or online via Amazon.

An upcoming documentary called “ELEVATION,” produced by architecture publication Dezeen, will explore how the emergence of commercial drone technology represents an inevitable paradigm shift for infrastructure, product delivery, human transportation, and design.

The film is teased in a new 90-second trailer, which publicly premiered last week in a “Future of Travel” conference session at the GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong. Much of the film’s footage was shot using drones, and the trailer includes brief excerpts from interviews with architecture gurus such as Norman Foster, Paul Priestman, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Liam Young.

“Now that drones are in the hands of every person on the street they’re potentially as disruptive as the internet,” Young said.

We’re already beginning to see that disruption in some fields. Quadcopters have been programmed to build makeshift rope bridges strong enough to support the weight of a human (useful for military and rescue operations). The trailer touches on Amazon’s Prime Air service, which delivers packages to customers in 30 minutes or less via drone transport. The ubiquity of drones in construction and transportation will only increase as production is scaled up, costs of operation are reduced, and legal terms of use are established.

In the trailer, Mark Dytham, co-founder of Klein Dytham Architecture, predicts drone parking lots and charge ports will take over city rooftops. Foster of Foster and Partners goes a step further, suggesting the development of drone-based aerial highways designed for human transportation.

In addition to these forecasts, the trailer also includes previously unreleased footage of a drone-based delivery service called Dragonfly, a brainchild of transportation designer PriestmanGoode. The concept video sees a swarm of drones depart from a storage unit floating in a bay or lake, picking up packages of various shapes and sizes, and dropping them off in specially constructed receipt portals (similar to mailboxes) built into the side of buildings.

The full-length documentary will launch in May, and will be accessible for free via the Dezeen website. To learn more about the commercial proliferation of unmanned systems, read the Q2 2015 trajectory cover story “Imminent Ubiquity.” 

Photo Credit: Dezeen

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Posted by Andrew Foerch