What's All the Buzz about Drones?

There’s a lot of excitement, curiosity and concern about our not-to-distant future when the sky turns dark with drones. Whether they’re fighting our wars, getting the world online or just delivering our shopping, the possibilities for unmanned aerial vehicles seem vast. But we’re only just starting to see the startups and technologies emerge that will bring drones into the mainstream.

So why is now the time to innovate and invest in drones?
Here are my top four trends for why the buzz about drones is more than just hype.

First off, legislation for drones is still not well established. In the US in particular, the Federal Aviation Authority still maintains very strict control over where (five miles away from airports, not over private property), how far (within sight), how high (under 400 feet) and for what (commercial applications require an exemption) you can fly your drone. Think back to May 2000 when, with the stroke of a pen, Bill Clinton authorized civilian use of accurate GPS and unleashed all the navigation apps and amazing geospatial tools we use every day. More recently, Colorado voted to legalize marijuana in 2014 and a one billion dollar industry was born (or at least it finally got it’s immigration papers). With the FAA on track to update it’s legislation later this year, more specific laws will unlock a host of drone operations.

With legislation comes regulation. As the rules and requirements for operating drones increases, so will the need for monitoring and enforcement of those rules. Control software for keeping drones in permitted airspace, safety features to prevent crashes and AI for autonomous flight control will all be required to keep everything buzzing about safely. The companies who can set the standards here stand to win big.

Next up are all the new applications. Aerial and satellite imaging has been used for decades in industries like agriculture, construction and intelligence. We’re already seeing drones tailored for making movies, monitoring crops and responding to disasters. As the resolution, sensors, cost and ease-of-use all continue to improve, drones are set to unlock much more precise and localized versions of existing industries as well as a host of new ones.

Finally, the last big trend is all about consolidation. In a field that began with hobbyists building their own drones from kits, Chinese firm DJI now dominates the recreational market with simple, powerful platforms. But there’s plenty more consolidation still to come around the devices, data, sensors and standards. In particular, with so many different types of drones, each operating on a very local scale, a centralized dispatch and data hub will emerge to make it easy for you to get the right drone for the right job. It’s only a matter of time until someone combines the hottest two buzzwords in tech right now and invents the “Uber for drones”!