Drones and Disruption

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Since my childhood, I have always been fascinated by flying machines. I was that kid who had dreams of creating a successful rocket – although the results didn’t quite match my lofty aims.

Today that fascination continues as we enter a new era of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Not only is the technology intriguing in and of itself; there’s the question of how will vendors find their place in the market?

The numbers are staggering. The market for business services using drones is now valued at more than $127 billion. The top three industries with the best prospects for drone applications are infrastructure (supervising maintenance of bridges, roads and pipelines); agriculture (data analysis on land and crops); and transport (Amazon being a big advocate with its drone program for last-mile services).

Of course we’ve all seen plenty of hype around the fun that can be had with drones. But the technology has to be taken seriously. Drones can be invaluable in saving costs and reducing risks. For example, delivery of a 2-kilogram package can be $2 to $8, versus 10 cents using a drone. Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, has been using drone delivery for spare parts, and expects to save between $3,000 and $9,000 annually per ship.

The case for drones goes well beyond cost savings. Drones can conceivably reach a patient suffering heart attack symptoms at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour, locate and identify them, and perform automatic defibrillation, increasing survival rates by as much as 80%.

The reason why drones are such an unsettling force is that they deliver that magic combination of disruption and value. That’s something we think about every day when working with Cel-Fi. Not only are we disrupting the indoor coverage model, we have countless stories from users on how much Cel-Fi has done beyond the technical benefits – from enabling the prime minister of a country stricken by natural disaster to function with her executive; allowing a husband to work from home to be by the bedside of his dying spouse; or simply keeping government communications moving. That kind of value is immeasurable.

Of course with any disruption, there’s a lot to address in terms of regulatory compliance and acceptable use cases. But that’s another debate for another time.

With that said, I will leave you with this link to one of my current favorite drone projects: Intel’s Drone 100. It’s one of many examples of how inspired technology can stretch our limits.

Where do you see drones delivering the greatest value?

 

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