Drones + Theaters = Magic-School-Bus-Holodeck

Here’s a fun idea to kick things off.

I spent a few months exploring the US in the summer of 2006. I stopped at a lot of national parks and monuments, and one of the ideas that struck me along the way was how cool it would be to use a drone to explore places like Chaco Culture and Mesa Verde. As great as it was to be there and get a real sense of place, these places are impossible for many people to get to–and it would devastate the place if many did.

Of course, it would be dangerous and chaotic to have drones flying willy-nilly all over the parks, and the powers that be recognize that. But now I think it could be a boon to the National Park system, schools, and maybe even movie theaters with a bit of restraint. Let’s break it down.

Wait, did you say do movies theaters?

Yes. It occurred to me that movie theaters seem to sit idle much of the morning. Perhaps there’s an opportunity there to use their dormant strengths to help educate students young and old. Movie theaters often have a market incentive to maintain a higher level of visual and audio immersion than the majority of the local population–a reason for people to come out to the movies rather than wait a few months to see them when they come out on Netflix. Why not team up with local governments and provide this immersion for educational purposes as well?

What does this have to do with Drones?

Yes, well I was getting to that. In many places, there’s enough network bandwidth to allow a live link between theaters and places like National Parks, aquariums, zoos, and underwater expeditions. In many cases, resources and technology aren’t to the point that many classes would be able to have an interactive tour aimed just at them, but even being able to have an opportunity to see something live with the possibility of having your questions answered can make it just a little more engaging. If someone in one of the audiences sees something that the experts didn’t, the expert could take a closer look. In many cases, this would best be done with a small drone.

Is that writing on the underside of that crevice? What do the birds see when they look back down at us? Why does that crab keep coming back to the same rock?

Big Deal.

Right, but that’s just where it starts! Let it play out a few years. If it can be made economical, lots of places could start getting revenue from hosting these live sessions. They could start investing in the capacity to support individualized experiences where someone in the class gets to drive the camera. Maybe there could even be enough drones for everyone to get a turn driving (probably using a phone or tablet)

People in poor neighborhoods and people with limited mobility may finally get a chance to see parts of the world that were never available to them before. It would be an opportunity to open up God’s creation to more and more people, especially as the idea caught on in less affluent countries.

Helping the Poor? With Drones?

Sure… What happens when you have students who are used to these experiences in their science classes, but then churches start to take drones with them on mission?

Rich kids get to interact with poor kids, and make connections they might never otherwise dream of making.

Whole communities may start making connections with others in desolate communities, simply because there is a new way to make and maintain those connections, and enough people say, “we have to help our brothers and sisters.”

But that’ll take a lot more than drones!

Of course it would. But drones are the missing piece of technology that gives you mobility in a remote space. Properly instrumented, a drone even gives you the ability to carry out remote actions. For example, experts can explore local resources and train up local talent. Builders can mark out boundaries and orchestrate logistics. I’m sure there’s plenty that people will think of once enough drones are in place.

But there need to be restrictions built into the control software.

People aren’t going to like having drones in their communities if those drones can’t be restrained. Even in the context of science classes, there will need to be limits to keep everything safe and sustainable. Drones will have to be aware of each other and of their surroundings so as not to bump into anything. There will have to be no-fly zones that are controlled by the localities. There will have to be a way to take over when someone is doing something stupid. And the security on all the communication protocols will have to be rock-solid, and constantly improving.

But this can all be done, with sufficient time and resources.

Your turn.

So what are your thoughts? Is anyone already doing some of this? Do you have your own ideas? The point of this is not to hold tightly to the idea, but let it loose and see where it goes… although I’d love to nurture and grow the idea myself if I had the time and resources.

Have at it–leave a comment! :)

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