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Are We Entering The Game of Drones?

September 18, 2017

 

I recently had the opportunity to attend* the inaugural World of Drones Congress
held in my hometown of Brisbane. Spearheaded by Dr. Catherine Ball (innovator, scientist and global drone expert), the three day conference brought some of the world's top drone experts to Brisbane to provide an international forum focused on drones' application in business - from industry, government to everyday life.

 

It was wonderful to see the impact Queensland (and wider Australian) businesses are having on this burgeoning industry, and the sessions I attended raised some incredibly interesting questions about how this industry might impact our lives in future. The sessions I attended were focused on the drone economy and showcased the existing drone industry, and the scope for this to grow and impact the world in future. Some key highlights:


Helpful drone technology already exists, and just keeps getting better - There are problems in the world, right now, of which we have the drone technology to solve - but with drone usage legislation frequently not in place this means drones often cannot be used. This issue was clearly frustrating to some of the conference speakers, and the existence of this conference is no doubt helping to push this issue to the forefront enabling legislators to look at why we're not using drones to, in some case, save lives. The industry is complex, with issues around privacy, safety and security, availability of facilities for use and testing, as well as regulations set by land, aviation and water bodies - so legislating it isn't easy, but we're apparently starting to move in the right direction.


Companies need to move it or lose it if they're not innovating with drones - There is potential for legislation to start being implemented to ensure when drone technology is available to "do stuff better," companies which don't utilise it will be penalised. This would ensure the full capabilities of the technology are exploited, ensuring proactivity instead of reactivity, making sure innovation is happening across all types of companies, and ensuring people in often life-threatening scenarios are receiving the best possible assistance.  

 

Entire drone-related industries are being created - Just like the smart phone spawned an entire ecosystem of both hardware and software services and products (new iPhone case anyone?), drone technology is already resulting in the development of entire new markets. Anti-drone solutions are big business, with entrepreneurs considering the ways in which drones may need to be stopped in future, including companies currently known to be training eagles to take drones down, and building guns which shoot nets to capture them...

 

Africa is currently doing the best job at exploiting drone technology to its full capacity - Andra Keay from Silicon Valley Robotics explained drone technology is currently being used to deliver blood as required to parts of Rwanda, which is saving lives. She mentioned other countries, including Australia, initially led the charge when it came to using drone technology to its full extent, however lack of a regulatory framework is hindering many countries at the moment from using drones to do good work and solve hard problems. 

 

Racing drones is a very big (very lucrative) deal - Drone racing is now a serious sport, with official racing associations emerging in many countries,  new clubs being created all over the world, huge prize money on offer, as well as sponsorships and investments being received from some of the world's largest companies. Speakers at the conference predicted "drone racing tourism" is on the rise, with drone racers choosing their holiday destinations based on their suitability for drone use/racing, and said "safe spaces" similar to skate parks will likely be created in local communities for children and adults alike to practice racing their drones.


Drones are coming...and quite a lot of them - Thomas Frey, Futurist at the DaVinci Institute in the US predicted by the early 2030s there will be one billion drones in the world, with entire drone command centres set up and multiple new drone-related industries created. He also forecast the pending implementation of driverless technology, with over 263 companies around the world having apparently already staked their entire futures on the prospects of this industry. Drone transportation will grow - with the potential for cars to be carried by drones if they're stuck in traffic. Late for a meeting? A drone will probably be able to pick you (and your car!) up, and deliver you across the sky to get there in time. 


There is already some incredible work being done with drones - I was excited to see an old Facebook colleague, Katherine Cook, present on the work Facebook has and continues to do with Aquila - a solar-powered plane that will beam internet to remote parts of the world and eventually break the record for longest unmanned aircraft flight. In addition, Australian Stephen Oh of XM2 explained how he and his team are currently creating purpose-built drone technology to innovate in the film and TV industry (a challenging industry to introduce un-proven new technologies into due to strict time and cost constraints) and achieving some ground-breaking results. 

 

The second World of Drones Congress will be held in Brisbane on 8-11 August 2018 and I'll definitely be going along to learn more about when I might be able start sending a drone to do the morning coffee run on my behalf...

 

*I wasn't paid to write this (I just like learning about new tech), and all opinions are my own. 

 

Sian Havard is Founder at Milkshake Group, a Brisbane, Australia based consultancy which partners with startups wanting world-class talent strategies. Find her at www.milkshakegroup.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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