While the US has taken halting steps toward permitting companies to use drones for business purposes, some Asian countries have jumped right in and allowed both government and commercial uses.
From pollution monitoring to crowd control to police investigations to even waiting on tables, drones have begun a long, slow hover across the continent. Below is a wrapup of the use and regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a handful of Asian countries.
Unmanned drones now assist the Ministry of Environmental Protection in China, checking on companies in order to enforce pollution-control guidelines. The inspections have been responsible for catching offending facilities in Hebei Province, and they currently operate in China's capital, Beijing, as well as other provinces such as Tianjin.
Government drones also collect information for law enforcement officers using high-resolution digital cameras and a combination of infrared and laser scanners, as well as thermal imaging for night-time duty.
Flyingin popular restaurants and bars by the end of 2015, as the country is actively promoting the automation of jobs by providing tax relief for business using machines. Singapore has traditionally struggled with hiring difficulties in the food and beverage industry. Restaurateurs can be a little more at ease when they have drone waitstaff bringing their customers cocktails and cheese boards.
Local authorities are also working on laws for public safety and personal drone use, with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Police Force updating their UAV regulatory framework.
By June, operation permits will be required if a drone weighs more than seven kilograms (about 15.4 pounds), or if a drone has the ability to "discharge substances," among other stipulations.
In a bid for riot control in North India, the police authorities in Lucknow, capital city of Uttar Pradesh, currently own four pepper-spraying drones and are purchasing more units worth at least $9,500 each.
In other parts of India, UAVs have also assisted in hunting down a problematic tiger that had killed seven people in Uttarakhand, as well as assisting the Tamil Nadu police intelligence unit in solving a rape-and-murder case by deploying the aerial detective 30 kilometers (about 18.5 miles) deep into wilderness, which captured physical evidence of the perpetrator's involvement in the case.
In the pursuit of research, a collaborative effort between Kyushu University and Fukuoka University resulted in a successful collection of atmospheric particle samples at an altitude of 22 km (about 13.5 miles) in Antarctica skies, with the use of a balloon-assisted UAV.
The stratospheric aerosol samples are key to observing global warming patterns, and unmanned drones have made it possible to collect samples from unprecedented altitudes at a much lower cost.
Japan is also exploring more industry-friendly options in the drone industry, with relatively loose regulation on drone usage and the involvement of two advisory panels appointed by Japan's current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.
Drones play an environmental role within Malaysia, as palm oil plantations use them for mapping land boundaries, as well as measuring moisture and other data from individual trees to provide raw data for agronomists to determine a tree's health and estimated yield of raw materials.
UAVs have also seen employment in Sabah, as the devices are expected to help track, in real time, human activity changes that can result in the spread of malaria, without having to rely on significantly pricier satellite imagery.