As part of our continuing focus on drone-related business and policy, we’re going to start sharing not just our own thoughts and insights, but also selecting and aggregating those of others. We’re NOT trying to stay ahead of developments; we’re thinking about what they might mean (see below).
So below, you’ll see a snapshot of provocative stories and quick commentary from early June. And separately, snapshots on recent US/EU regulatory activity and regional US regulatory activity from that same period. Going forward, while for client reasons there will always be a slight lag, we’ll continue this partial curation.
The reality is there are too few destinations for intelligent collections of UAV information that connect the dots, accessibly, between technology, policy and business. Our blog may or may not become such a repository. That said, internally, our TMT team routinely analyzes and evaluates conversation and events in dronespace, and there’s merit in open-sourcing some portion of it.
Overall, what we see is a continuing delta between business opportunity and business risk management – a delta much larger than necessary or, in our view, wise. Commercial UAV use remains nascent and unformed – driven as much by small-and-medium-sized businesses as by large, well-capitalized companies with infrastructure and a conservative approach to risks.
Frankly, this is what makes drone-related work fun. At the same time, the more we study drone-related business, the more we see avoidable problems, manageable by even smaller companies. We’ve opined on this kind of thing – e.g. establishing standards, even business by business – previously, and will again.
But looking across recent developments, we see the kind of innovation that creates as much uncertainty as it does value, which is why we track actual or potentially criminal uses of UAV technology, as well as more mainstream ones.
NEWS: US/EU SNAPSHOT
Commercial drones continue to be put to increasingly innovative or apparently unexpected uses – penetrating high-security airspaces, but also being used to provide confidence for investors and improve athletic as well as first responder performance.
- CRIME | Douglas Hughes, the Florida mailman who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the Capitol last month was indicted on May 20th on six charges and faces up to 9-1/2 years in prison. Hughes’ flight outside of D.C. and onto the Capitol grounds triggered a frantic lockdown and exposed what critics said was a worrying loophole in security. At a congressional hearing last month, lawmakers expressed disbelief that radar did not alert the authorities earlier of the incoming aircraft and that there was no apparent attempt to take Hughes down. Click here for more information.
- CRIME | Burglars are buying drones to beat sophisticated intruder systems at expensive properties in Britain and the US, it has been revealed. Gangs can buy the gadgets for as little as £30 and send them over electric gates and fences to take a closer look at their targets – filming the layout of estates and zooming in on alarm system wiring. Click here for more information.
- CORPORATE | GoPro Inc. announced plans to move beyond its Hero brand of wearable cameras, easing some investor concerns that it was a single-product company. Chief Executive Officer Nick Woodman said GoPro was developing a drone for capturing video from the skies and working on a product that will allow video and photo recording for virtual reality. Click here for more information.
- CORPORATE |Great Britain Cycling Team’s BMX squad is fitting its bikes with technology developed for drones in order to try to shave milliseconds off its race times. Click here for more information.
- AGRICULTURE; CRIME | In piloting unmanned vehicles, some farmers are breaking the law. It is illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes without permission from federal authorities, and those who do so risk penalties in the thousands of dollars. However, the technology holds such promise that many farmers are using it anyway, dotting the country’s rural skies with whirring devices saddled with tiny video cameras. Click here for more information.
- FIRST RESPONSE | On May 14, Zurich North America showcased findings of a new study detailing how drones can help first responders and improve relief efforts following a disaster. Conducted by Measure, a 32 Advisors Company, in coordination with the American Red Cross, Drones for Disaster Response and Relief Operations outlines use cases and makes recommendations for implementation of drones for disaster recovery with key goals of saving lives and helping communities recover more quickly. Research has found that reducing the timeline of the early phases of recovery can expedite the entire recovery process and may even support more successful searches for survivors. Click here to view the report.