Russell Davies
Russell Davies
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: Attention adland - drones are going to take over our lives

What's that buzzing sound? Can you hear it? Outside the window? Is it a drone? One of those buzzy things, hovering outside your building? No? It will be soon. If I had to point at a media trend, something that'll be as interesting and significant as social media one day soon, I think I'd say drones. And it's not just because I've been playing with an iPhone-controlled helicopter since Christmas. But it is, partly.

Consider, for instance, these examples of how drones are edging closer to mainstream and media lives: www. is a good place to start - it's the site of a group of Russian photographers and "panorama enthusiasts". They've been experimenting with drones carrying cameras for a while now, but they shot to prominence when they captured brilliant shots of last year's demonstrations in Russia, showing exactly the size and nature of the crowd - normally a hotly debated topic between protesters and authorities.

Or type "robokopter" into YouTube and look at the footage this Polish start-up captured of similar demonstrations in Warsaw. As you watch, you realise this is stuff you've never seen before. It looks like helicopter footage, but it's in places that helicopters would never be able or allowed to go. Media organisations are eagerly exploring these technologies - they're getting smaller, cheaper and easier, and it won't be long before drones are commonplace on the news.

And maybe they'll be commonplace on the street too. The Arkansas legislature has recently allowed "the use of aerial imagery to collect data on property sizes" - presumably to aid the collection of taxes or settle disputes. The spectre of tax-assessing spy-drones has already been raised. It makes for good headlines, but you can quickly see the advantage for authorities. How long before there are drone traffic wardens and drone park-keepers? You know it'll happen if they get cheap and reliable enough. The army and the CIA are training operators as fast as they can and they'll soon be back on Civvy Street looking for security work.

So why should you care? Well, the same recent congressional report that pointed out that one in three US warplanes is now a robot also mentioned that drones could soon prove useful in "psychological operations", specifically dropping leaflets - and right there, that's where we come in. It can't be long before there are flocks of drones dropping trial pouches of yoghurt on the people streaming out of Liverpool Street. It's bound to happen, isn't it? And before that, you're bound to see it in a creative technology presentation - one of those leading-edge tech ideas designed to "go viral". It has probably already happened. Either way, the drones are coming and they'll be buzzing outside your window soon.