Local Drone Pilot Says the Technology is ‘Saving Lives’

SOUTH SACRAMENTO -- It seems like more drones are filling the skies every day.

"You feel like you're flying a high-speed jet but you're not risking your life," said Colby Curtola.

People have been playing with drones for years now, many using them to take aerial photographs. But as aviation technology develops practical uses for drones are reaching new heights.

"Originally you would see the hobbyist photographer with their DGI Phantom out taking pictures or video and now it's kind of grown into more industrial applications," Curtola said. "So we're seeing drones that are dropping lifeboats to drowning surfers in the ocean from the air, saving lives."

Saving lives is a concept Curtola is pretty familiar with. The professional drone pilot works for a company that uses autonomous drones to transport medical samples in Switzerland.

"We take the drone up from the hospital landing pad and then drop it off at the lab within two minutes," Curtola said. "You don't have to worry about traffic or anything like that. It's just instant."

But drones aren't just saving people, farmers are using them to help save the environment too.

"They go up over an orchard. They take pictures of all the trees and they can see based on the color of the trees which areas need water, which areas don't and they can cut back on their water usage by a lot," Curtola said.

Even TV stations are throwing their hat in the ring, using drones to bring their audiences the news from new angles.

Experts expect we'll continue to see more uses for the unmanned aerial vehicles in the future.

"I think we're going to be seeing flying vehicles in the next 10 years," Curtola said.

But some people are still using drones for good old-fashioned fun. Avid pilots are taking their talents to the race track, competing in drone competitions. One of those races, the "Xfinity California Drone Speed Challenge," is happening Thursday at the Golden 1 Center.