Tell us something about your current position and your professional background
I’m CEO of 3DR, founder and chairman of the Linux Foundation’s Dronecode Project, and founder of the DIY Drones and DIY Robocars communities, including the ArduPilot autopilot project. From 2001 through 2012 I was the Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine. Before Wired I was with The Economist for seven years in London, Hong Kong and New York.
“In the commercial drone era, everything that isn’t focused on solving real-world problems with clear ROIs is just a science project .” – Chis Anderson
Do you see a transition from a hardware to a software focus?
For sure, as is always the case in emerging platforms: First comes the base hardware standards, then the software standards, then the applications. Thanks to DJI, which has become the Apple of the hardware side of drones, we’re in the third phase now.
In your opinion, which industry vertical (Construction, Mining, Agriculture, Oil & Gas, etc.) offers the highest potential?
We’ve explored almost all of them, and we settled on Construction (or, to be more precise, AEC: Architecture, Engineering and Construction) as the highest potential market for drone data. It’s the second largest market in the world, still largely undigitized, and operating at 80% cost overruns. In other words, there’s a huge amount of efficiency to bring to this market: managing through measurement!
Which region would you see as a benchmark for UAV technology?
China is leading in drone hardware (DJI, Yuneec, etc), Zurich/Switzerland is leading in drone software (ETH, PX4, Dronecode) and Silicon Valley is leading in commercial drone data (3DR, Drone Deploy, Skycatch, Airware, Kespry, etc). It’s also worth noting that there’s also the lower-level hardware platforms, from the processor to the sensors) and there it’s China vs the US: DJI vs Intel (Aero, RealSense, Movidius) and Qualcomm (Snapdragon Flight).
What du you think is the next big thing in the UAV business (cloud software, drone delivery, BVLOS, multifunctional applications, hybrid platforms) ?
Cloud software, integrated with existing SaaS platforms in existing verticals (construction, insurance, ag, etc). In the commercial drone era, everything that isn’t focused on solving real-world problems with clear ROIs is just a science project (and I should know, after doing many years of science projects!).
What would be your summary to describe the current state of UAV technology?
From the very beginning (ten years ago), it was clear that this market would have three phases: “tech” (core drone software and hardware; 2007-2012), “toy” (consumer products for video and other recreational use, as allowed by regs; 2012-present), and “tool” (enterprise-grade drone data platforms, from camera to cloud, optimized for specific industry verticals, starting with the FAA Part 107 rule in 2016). We’re now clearly in the third phase – it’s all about the data, not the drone.