How timely! A couple of months ago the discussion started – "will unmanned vehicles make a transition into civilian use". I've been taking the stance that since we're talking vehicles – not just aircraft but all forms of non-stationary robot, that it is inevitable. Even with aircraft I believe it is inevitable, though it may take a little longer for unmanned / automated aircraft to be certified for use in civilian airspace.
It would make sense that robots would be deployed for things that are either impossible for humans to do, or for things that are hazardous and dangerous. On the impossible-for-humans side, quick return deep-dive missions in the ocean, and several-day long monitoring missions come to mind, as well as some interesting possibilities for telepresence tourism. The hazardous side is easy to imagine – everything from maintenance of city infrastructures to handing toxic or radioactive substances would be fair game to use robots for, as well as underground mining.
Among some of the things I've thought about are robots with a divide-and-conquer design. Some robots would be specialized worker robots, others might act as relay points to extend the reach of the overall system, and some functionality might overlap.
Just a couple of days ago, Bill posted about INTRA Groupe's Hazardous Materials handling robots.
This is an excellent example of a small herd of robots designed to perform complementary tasks. There's even a unit specially designed to act as a data relay, to extend the reach of the telepresence system. Though these robots are currently remote-operated, as the need arises and becomes evident I would expect each system to be given some degree of autonomous control, in order to augment the abilities of their human controllers to achieve their ultimate goal.