One of the first drone deliveries was operated not by a tech giant from Silicon Valley but by small-time criminals who saw potential in the new technology.
In late 2013, days before Amazon announced its futuristic plan to operate a fleet of automated vehicles, four people were arrested for attempting to smuggle contraband into a Georgia state prison using a drone.
Guards had noticed a remote-controlled helicopter hovering above Calhoun prison. Later, they found the six-rotor drone in a nearby car alongside what appeared to be its cargo: pouches of tobacco and mobile phones.
Five years later, Amazon still hasn’t launched its sky delivery service, while the proliferation of cheap, commercially available drones worldwide has far outpaced the ability of authorities to control them.
In the past two years, non-military drones have shut down Gatwick airport for 36 hours, been used in an apparent assassination attempt against Venezuela’s president and even been flown by Isis fighters to drop grenades on their enemies.
Responding to the threat, a host of companies – from state-run defense contractors to startups – have developed products that can detect, track, jam, destroy or even commandeer rogue drones.
These services comprise a market that is expected to grow by between 20% and 30% in the next few years and could be worth £4bn by the middle of the next decade.