(Watch video of lecture here)

In the next five years, the consumer and business drone markets are expected to quadruple in sales. These flying robots are here to stay, and they could end up revolutionizing the world from the retail sector to law enforcement and the entertainment industry.

University of Utah mechanical engineering associate professor Kam Leang will be talking about the impact drones are having on society and industry for this year’s William R. and Erlyn J. Gould distinguished Lecture on Technology and the Quality of Life. The lecture, “Drones to the Rescue,” will be held at noon on Sept. 12 in the Gould Auditorium, level 1, in the J. Willard Marriott Library.

Leang, whose research on drone technology includes chemical-sensing drones and autonomous navigation and control, is also a faculty member of the U’s Utah Robotics Center.

“I want to give everyone a quick snapshot of the projected growth between now and the next five years,” said Leang. “And there are obviously a lot of diverse applications with drones. They are a game-changer for solving a lot of different problems.”

Currently, research is being conducted to use drones for agriculture, including for crop spraying and to assess water usage. They also are being developed for search-and-rescue operations and construction surveying. Amazon has been researching drones to deliver packages straight to consumers’ doorsteps, and companies such as Uber and Intel have been developing large drones to be used as a taxi service to shuttle people without the use of a pilot. Part of Leang’s research involves developing software for drones that would allow them to autonomously fly into buildings and in and out of rooms without colliding into objects for applications such as fire-rescue reconnaissance.

The professor will also touch on some of the more controversial topics surrounding drones such as privacy concerns and air-space regulations.

A mechanical engineering B.S. and Masters alum, Leang joined the University of Utah faculty in 2014. He received his doctorate from the University of Washington, also in mechanical engineering.