The word drone tends to invoke a picture of fear and death that is not undeserved given the thousands of lives that have been lost to military drones over the last decade. As a result the idea of drones in the US tends to get a bit of push-back when a practical application is involved. Amazon announced nearly two years ago their intention to do rapid 30-minute or less delivery via drones, but has only just gotten approval a few months ago to begin testing their prototypes. They had to do some testing in Canada due to the restrictions put in place by the FAA. In 2012 the FAA was mandated to update their policy on drones by Sep 30th, 2015, a deadline which--as could be expected--has come and past without any progress made.
The FAA getting everything straightened out is expected to take some time yet, but a new company called Mountain Drones is already in preliminary testing at Telluride Mountain resort. In a nutshell the plan is to drop explosives from the drone onto the snowpack for avalanche mitigation. This keeps ski patrollers out of the danger zone and saves lives. While the FAA continues to develop their plan and Mountain Drones continues to test their product, they're going to be dropping dummy explosives this winter. The technology involved is pretty cool. It's not just a simple fly out and drop device, it uses a good deal of sophisticated sensors to achieve it's goal.
The drones include sensors to detect the water content and the depth of snow to help analyze potential avalanche risks. (The company is also exploring using this technology to help municipalities in places like California and Colorado to make decisions about water use planning by giving them estimates of snow melt-off.) The drones can be programmed to fly a route dictated by GPS, so even in white out conditions where the pilot couldn't see, the drone could be sent out to do work. According to Outside Magazine:
The Prospect has eight 30-inch-long propellers and a seven-foot wingspan. It flies for 45 minutes on one battery and can carry half its weight in dynamite, enough to clear five avalanche paths in one flight.
The drones are coming; personal use drones will be able to take pictures and video as you ski, leading to potential hazards from crashing drones. These drones however, look to save lives.