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Drones Could Replace $127 Billion Worth Of Human Labor (businessinsider.com.au) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: A new report from PwC finds that drones could replace $127 billion worth of human labor and services across several industries. Infrastructure and agriculture make up the largest chunks of the potential value -- some $77.6 billion between them -- including services like completing the last mile of delivery routes and spraying crops with laser-like precision. Economists seem to agree that robot automation poses real threats to human labour within the next few decades. Drones are a cheap, versatile first step toward that future. According to the new PwC report, they're also a solid cost-cutting measure. Along with infrastructure and agriculture, drones will help tech giants like Amazon deliver packages, allow security companies to better monitor their sites, help producers and advertisers to film projects, allow telecommunication firms to easily check on their towers, and give mining companies a new way to plan their digs.
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Drones Could Replace $127 Billion Worth Of Human Labor

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  • by H3lldr0p ( 40304 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @08:20AM (#52097561) Homepage

    but from what I've seen here on /. the past few years, all it will take to screw it up is one bad actor and *boom*. So while I also express some discomfort for the thought of the adjustment period, I do wonder how all of these new robot pals are going to be secured against turning them into weapons (dropping packages from unsafe heights) or avoid industrial sabotage (by having their blades chop the crops they're supposed to be dusting or reporting they've dusted the crops when no such thing happened or being hijacked to go dust the local busy shopping center instead of the crops).

    I don't expect things to be perfect out of the box but if the US military occasionally has trouble how are we going to be protecting ourselves?

    • from what I've seen here on /. the past few years, all it will take to screw it up is one bad actor and *boom*.

      if you mean sabotage, security will improve. if you mean malicious use of drones, that's possible already and it's not really happening.

      I don't expect things to be perfect out of the box but if the US military occasionally has trouble how are we going to be protecting ourselves?

      The US military doesn't design these things, you know. They buy them from someone.

    • I don't expect things to be perfect out of the box but if the US military occasionally has trouble how are we going to be protecting ourselves?

      I used to prefer a Mossberg 535 because it's cheap, reliable and it can fire 3 1/2 in shells for extra range but receny I've grown partial to the method this guy used to solve his drone problem [youtube.com].

    • In the USA, that's no problem.

      We just assert our Second Amendment rights and blow them out of the sky.

      RPGs and anti-aircraft weapons are arms, aren't they?

  • by no-body ( 127863 )

    So what is the human labor doing without the 120-something $ Billions do and who gets it?

    I always like those numbers, it costs $ xxx amount or xxx $ wasted, xxx $ budget overrun etc., the other side, who benefits is never mentioned.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      I wouldn't worry about who gets the most money, the problem is the lowering income of the lower and medium wages:

      https://hbr.org/resources/imag... [hbr.org]

      Which is also really bad for the economy, because medium wages are the largest spenders

    • Yeah, we should ban cotton gins, and combine harvesters, and horse-drawn PLOWS, for God's sake!

      Think how many more people we could employ if we didn't use horses to plow the fields, or allowed men to pick cotton seeds out of the cotton by hand the way they were meant to.

      It's always interesting seeing the Luddites using a technology that didn't exist 50 years ago to natter about how some new technology is going to destroy civilization. I mean, it's not like the computer industry didn't put MILLIONS of tel

      • It's always interesting seeing the Luddites using a technology that didn't exist 50 years ago to natter about how some new technology is going to destroy civilization.

        The difference between Ludd's time and now is that back then the ruling class didn't have automated labour, so they couldn't simply kill off all the working poor. Now they can.

  • Define drone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @08:25AM (#52097607)

    The most common usages of drone are for Predator-type vehicles used by the military and battery powered multicopters used by hobbyists and others for short-range, low-payload close in flights.

    The former are extremely expensive pilotless airplanes backed by a large ground infrastructure with unique capabilities (like their own satellites). The latter are relatively inexpensive, but for the most part can't carry more than small video camera and can't travel all that far.

    Based on the breathless summary of this article, they make it sound like we already have the equivalent of the former in the packaging and cost of the latter, just waiting to take off with a hundred or so gallons of pesticide or able to travel 10+ miles delivering heavy packages with precision.

    Do we? Are there available commercial civilian drones that can be operated by 1-2 people able to actually do the job of a crop duster? That's about the number of people it takes to keep a crop duster flying -- a pilot and a mechanic, and they can carry enough chemicals to spray a many acres in a single flight. The Amazon thing sounds even more ridiculous, the equivalent of a small helicopter in terms of range and lift capacity.

    To me this reads like wishful thinking or science fiction. "Robots could do these jobs.." Sure, but first show me the robot you've invented that can do them. I don't doubt the pilotless cropdusters are technologically possible -- you could just put in remote controls in an actual plane or helicopter, but probably not cheaper and easier than you could just hire someone to fly the thing.

    • Hey now, the bright automated future is Closer than We Think! [gizmodo.com]

      I like this one [gizmodo.com], where they completely overlook any potential downside.


      Also, they totally miss that we could have 40 years of productivity improvements that capital decides to keep 100% and share 0% with labor.
    • The most common usages of drone are for Predator-type vehicles used by the military and battery powered multicopters used by hobbyists and others for short-range, low-payload close in flights.
      The former are extremely expensive pilotless airplanes backed by a large ground infrastructure with unique capabilities (like their own satellites).

      Please define extremely expensive. It is possible to build something similar to a Predator for less than the median price of a new car. The military is paying for the advanced airframe, which is irrelevant to the mission if not being shot at.

      A fixed-wing drone with a four foot wingspan can reasonably loiter and shoot video for half an hour to an hour, using a combination of GPS and inertial navigation... for just a few hundred dollars.

      The latter are relatively inexpensive, but for the most part can't carry more than small video camera and can't travel all that far.

      A $120 quadcopter can lift a SLR... or a grenade. And subsequently press

    • A drone is any flying machine where a meat-bag isn't physically onboard piloting it.

  • Luddites,start smashing the looms!

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday May 12, 2016 @09:01AM (#52097809) Homepage Journal

    Just once I'd like to see a technological revolution where the CEOs are replaced by technology *before* the labor pool.

    You won't see robots outlawed until robots start replacing lawyers. Lawyers tend to control the law in their favor, so, once you have technology replacing lawyers, that's when the revolution really comes.

    But I always find it funny that technology replaces every person, except the most useless person in the entire organization, and that's the overpaid, underworked CEO who's only concern about the company is what the stock price is at that very second.

    Half of the CEOs in this country can't even tell you what their company *does* -- and yet they get paid more than the entire labor force of the company combined; and continually look for ways to increase their income while decreasing the income of everyone else.

    Replace CEOs with a chatbot that can play golf, and you'll notice no difference in the running of the firm. And save million of dollars in compensation.

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
      I've always wanted to start a CEO outsourcing company, where we replace the CEO with a small team of MBAs from India. Charge 1/10 what the old CEO made and still make out like bandits. One team could comfortably service multiple clients at the same time as well.
  • Forget your pesticides-spraying drones flying over open farm land. This is just a patch over an old method.

    The future of farming is enclosed systems [inhabitat.com]. More food, better quality food, faster, with less water and less (no?) pesticides.

  • This isn't going to happen anytime soon because of the energy requirements. It's not like cellphones, tablets, and laptops that can be made more efficient with better chips and even profiling the energy requirements of the software. Moving mass around has long-known energy requirements and today's batteries simply can't deliver that kind of power.

  • Drones aren't just Predators, Global Hawks and those terrible little quadcopters Maid in Chian.

    Maybe it's time the non-Luddites wake up and small the machine-made coffee! I'll give a few examples I came up with for jobs that can be droned out -- just by looking around me.

    1. Fast Food Workers. Instead of a surly cashier taking your order and then a surlier worker bee behind the counter putting it together -- badly -- you'll walk up to the customer service touchscreen, and punch 1 for Big Mac, 2 for Quarte

    • You forgot the fourth future... The Matrix (either the robots put us in it voluntarily or they put us in there involuntarily). :)

  • Farmers have been using GPS to automate tractors and farming for a long time.....
  • Economists seem to agree that robot automation poses real threats to human labour within the next few decades.

    Which economist are these? Citation please. I'm not aware of any credible economist who has a blanket view that robots will replace human labor substantially within the next few decades with no alternative work being available. There has not been a single instance in human history where automation has resulted in a long term labor shortage. It causes some short term dislocations in specific industries but those affected always eventually find other work.

    Most economists I've ever spoken with and read th

  • ...drones will help tech giants like Amazon deliver packages, allow security companies to better monitor

    the increasing horde of the desperate, hungry, jobless underclass that will still be scolded by CEOs and their lapdog politicians to stop being bums and pull themselves up with their own bootstraps instead of selfishly eating them.

  • Friend of mine was an absolute wizard in a darkroom - amazing colour perception and memory, an instinct for chemicals/timing combinations that would bring out contrast in bad images. When most darkroom work was automated, his was not - developing large-process prints of airphotos in false colours, that kind of specialty work. But finally all that was gone too, when electronic images started to beat the best that chemicals could do even for specialty needs.

    He was past 50 by then, a death-zone for a career

  • There is no doubt that drones could do many things more efficiently, which would add to the corporate bottom line. However that $127B is predominately paid out to human beings as workers. While it would first appear that the change to the economy is $0, the wages paid out no longer go to the workers, but instead the shareholders. However, the workers use those wages to purchase goods and services that the shareholders typically don't

    Normally, it is figured in economics that wages paid to workers are multipl

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