Future of Drones

The Future of Drones: 7 Bold Trends for 2018

As we welcome the new year, it’s exciting to hear more about some of the new trends facing the commercial drone industry in 2018. Not only has the industry gained traction, but it’s been brought into the national spotlight during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. For the first time, the public has an aerial view of the widespread impact of these natural disasters while allowing insurance companies to asses and close claims at record breaking speeds.

Last year, I wrote “The Future of Drones: 5 Bold Predictions for 2017” to summarize some of the key predictions for 2017. We saw many companies rise and fall. Most recently, GoPro announced a series of layoffs and dropping out of the commercial UAV business. DJI released the DJI Spark and a new version of the Mavic Pro. News of John Deere and Kespry teaming up to help construction and mining companies use drones,  the partnership between Caterpillar and Airware, and DroneDeploy releasing an enterprise level solution are all great illustrations of how and where professionals are going to have the best opportunity to get their hands on drones. E

Going into 2018, I believe we’ll see continued growth in the commercial UAV space, and a bigger push from UAV manufacturers, service providers, and startups into the enterprise space as local regulations begin to relax and drones can fly farther, fly longer, and fly autonomously.

1. DJI will continue to grow quicker and faster as they enter into new verticals

DJI has been the unprecedented, market leader in the consumer drone space. It’s estimated they own about 72% of the global market for consumer drones, and even higher when considering their primary product line of prosumer drones (ex Phantom series, Inspire series, Matrice series). DJI has also slowly and quietly been exploring additional verticals and enterprise use cases to propel the company beyond consumer hardware, as can be seen with their entrance into the Agriculture space with the AGRAS MG-1 drone.

2. Drones will become more workflow driven as industries realize their true potential

Today, anybody and their grandmother can buy a consumer drone off the shelf. New services even allow them to monetize their drones by filming residential properties or events. As we begin to see larger enterprise applications open up in agriculture, aggregates, construction, and insurance, the industries will demand a much more robust, efficient system that can easily integrate into their existing workflows. This means better integration of aerial data with current project management software, inventory management systems, and claims estimation solutions.

3. Interconnected systems will allow for larger fleet deployments

As drones move from small innovation groups to larger enterprise deployments, we will begin to see larger and larger fleets being deployed. Interconnected drones, hardware, and systems will make it easier than even for larger enterprise customers to view and and manage a fleet of operators and drones across the organization. These building blocks will help build and shape a more unified air traffic management solution moving into the future.

4. We will begin to new entrants into the space, while others begin to consolidate

As we progress into 2018, we will begin to see the dominant players in the hardware and software space begin to materialize. Today, there are hundreds of scattered drone startups, hardware manufacturers, and software cluttering the environment. The acquisitions and consolidations have already begun, with GoPro leaving the drone industry, and Redbird’s acquisition. On the other end of the spectrum, we will see new entrants putting their hat in the ring. Existing drone programs will enter the mainstream with companies like Intel, Google, and Facebook will begin to take their drone programs from the R&D stage towards productization.

5. New sensors and equipment will allow for new use cases

In 2017, we’ve seen a few organizations begin to use thermal imagery to assist with search and rescue operations and firefighting. As we progress into 2018, we will begin to see additional sensors such as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) become a norm on enterprise UAV’s, allowing them to pierce through heavy vegetation and cover, and detect narrow objects like power lines, pipelines, and roof edges far better than orthomosaic imagery.

6. Regulations will continue to ease up and enable new use cases

We will begin to see progress with Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) solutions and drone integration, a technology that will be as crucial for the commercial drone industry as the Part 107 certification and drone registrations. The FAA has already begun issuing limited waivers for certain companies to test UAV’s beyond line of sight, and we will continue to see that trend through 2018. Waivers in the future will help increase drone adoption as we can have people in the field managing swarms of drones to perform functions ranging from package deliveries to pipeline inspections.

7. Piloting will become more automated with intelligent mission planning

Today, there are a variety of different tools at the pilots disposal for mission planning, from full manual control, to completely automated systems. In 2018, we will begin to see more advancements in obstacle detection and avoidance, artificial intelligence, the unmanned traffic management system, and ease of controlling fleets of aircraft. Intel has already shown us a sneak peak by flying 250 drones over the Bellagio during CES. These advancements will require mission planning and piloting to become far more automated, providing pilots with limited manual control, but addressing concerns around safety, privacy, and security.

The commercial drone industry shows no sign of stopping, and we can expect to see a dramatic increase in enterprise aerial applications in our communities and around the world.

Additional Resources:

  1. Drone Analyst – http://droneanalyst.com/2017/12/19/five-biggest-commercial-drone-trends-of-2017-and-the-challenges-ahead
  2. DroneDeploy – https://blog.dronedeploy.com/2018-commercial-drone-industry-predictions-fe229aa3551c
  3. Dronelife – https://dronelife.com/2018/01/02/drones-2018-thought-leaders-predict-new-trends/
  4. Cisco Blog – https://blogs.cisco.com/innovation/the-drones-have-taken-off-our-investment-in-kespry-a-leading-industrial-aerial-intelligence-platform
  5. Cnet – https://www.cnet.com/news/intel-soars-above-las-vegas-with-bellagio-drone-light-show-ces-2018/
  6. CNBC – https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/01/in-race-to-dominate-drone-space-west-is-no-match-for-chinas-dji.html
  7. Commerical UAV News – https://www.expouav.com/news/latest/standards-will-critical-uav-adoption/
  8. Seeking Alpha – https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjT9PD7hN3YAhWmjlQKHc_ICQMQFghKMAY&url=https%3A%2F%2Fseekingalpha.com%2Farticle%2F4031037-commercial-drone-adoption-taking-flight&usg=AOvVaw04_nio7zD6UUhtCwKJQ2p4
  9. Venture Beats – https://venturebeat.com/2018/01/13/drone-trends-to-watch-in-2018-big-data-flying-taxis-and-home-security/
  • Header image from The Conversation

Good Product Manager vs Bad Product Manager

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading “The Hard Thing about Hard Things”, a great book by Ben Horowitz, would definitely recommend for anyone working in fast growing companies or teams that are looking for advice across all facets of a business.

As I was reading through the book, I came across an excerpt written by Ben titled “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager” where he walks through some of the good and bad qualities of product managers across a variety of industries.

In essence, he states that good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the competition extremely well and operates from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. They are the CEO and owner of that product and they must take full responsibility for the success or failure of the product. They are responsible for right product/right time and all that entails. A good product manager knows the context going in (the company, our revenue funding, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).

Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has 10 times as many engineers working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. They voice their opinion verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen. Once bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted they would fail. They define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem). They get very confused about the differences amongst delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity. Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine all problems into one.

You can read the entire excerpt here: https://a16z.com/2012/06/15/good-product-managerbad-product-manager/

The Future of Drones: 5 Bold Predictions for 2017

Note: This is a repost of the same article on LinkedIn.

The 2017 Consumer Electronics Showcase has just concluded in Las Vegas, Nevada and drones are front and center in the national discussion. Drones, UAVs and other unmanned systems have taken off as a unique tool for everyday life, regardless of whether flight is controlled by onboard computers or remotely from the ground. Unmanned systems have revolutionized the way we capture, monitor and assist our world. They provide aerial coverage for sports, travel and real estate; enhance search and rescue, law enforcement and disaster relief; and so much more.

DJI, Yuneec, and Qualcomm are just a few of the companies that showcased drone and UAV technologies at the Showcase. After hearing from over 42 companies during the CES, here are my 5 bold predictions for the future of drones.


1. Drones Will Be Automated

Today, drones are controlled by human operators. The new FAA regulations lay out a set of guidelines that every operator must abide by when flying their UAVs in US Airspace. The drones of tomorrow, however, may not require human operators at all. Startups and government agencies alike are researching technologies in areas of predictive and prescriptive analytics, allowing drones to analyze flight plans, detect and avoid obstacles, and communicate with one another, all in real time.

Silicon Valley Startup, DroneDeploy, and EU Startup, UAVIA, are just a few companies leading the developments in automated data collection and remote operation in the next generation of drones. DroneDeploy has developed a SAAS platform that allows users to automate data collection by allowing users to capture and analyze maps and 3D Models. UAVIA is developing connected drones and charging stations that remove the need for human operators.


2. Drones Will Take VR/AR to New Heights

With live-streaming videos and 10-second moments taking center stage,  we are entering an era where people can see the world in real-time, immerse themselves in another reality, and connect with one another like never before.

Drones connect us even further by providing a perspective that’s been unimaginable for centuries. Combining virtual and augmented reality systems with drone technologies present itself with a world of new possibilities. 360 cameras can be attached to drones and allow viewers to transport themselves to almost any location on the planet. More advanced systems can allow operators to control these drones in real time from across the world.

Startups like Drone Volt and Aerobo are pioneering this fusion of technology. Drone Volt specializes in the manufacturing, assembly, distribution and sales of advanced drones for professional usage, from audiovisual applications to security. They currently have a drone with ten, 4k cameras geared towards producing VR content. Aerobo is a drones-as-a-service company operating in entertainment, news, sports, real estate, industrial inspection, energy, and agriculture. The Aerobo Mini, their latest product, is a lightweight drone constructed with 3D printed plastic, reinforced with carbon fiber.


3. Drones Will Be The New Development Platform

The Smartphone fundamentally changed the way we communicate, navigate, shop, and more within the past decade. Drones are simply smartphones in the sky. They’re a set of processors and sensors with wings, set to disrupt numerous industries, including logistics, agriculture, and insurance. Google and Apple have developed ingeniously simple ways for developers to build on top of their platforms. Similarly, DJI is moving towards providing developers with the tools and resources needed to build on top of their platforms.

Numerous startups have taken advantage of drones as the new development platform, including FreeSkies and Airware. FreeSkies has developed an autonomous path planning interface that allows users to select 3D waypoints and automate their flightplans without any piloting experience. Airware has developed a platform for developers and enterprises to build applications from the sky.

star wars drone

4. Drones Will Fly in Swarms

Swarming technology is a form of artificial intelligence that will enable drones to imitate the flight patterns of certain insects. It could enable thousands of drones, working together, to achieve impossible tasks with current technology. They can assist in search and rescue missions, construct bridges in a matter of days, or even deliver goods to your doorstep. Advancements in artificial intelligence and cloud robotics will help lead the evolution of drones, where drones not only communicate with operators, but with one another.

The US Navy has initiated a Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program to allow a single operator to control a swarm of up to 30 drones. The GRASP Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania is researching drones that can sense and avoid one another and carry out tasks as a single unit. The CSAIL Laboratory at MIT is developing algorithms that can assist in drone navigation, surveillance, and mapping.

ehang drone

5. Drones Will Connect Our World

From advancing cellular technology to providing internet to remote areas, drone technology is connecting our world more than ever. Cellular companies are researching ways to extend cellular networks to the last gray areas on our map, while Facebook is developing a drone that can provide internet access to the furthest reaches of our planet. Facebook’s Internet.org is developing the Aquila drone using laser communications and millimeter wave systems to provide Internet coverage to areas of the world under-served by traditional connectivity infrastructure.

Google’s Project Skybender and Project Loon are exploring next-generation 5G wireless Internet access via drones and balloons respectively. The drones will use phased array technology to transmit data at high speeds.

I envision a future where drones are a major component of the IoT, a world where everything is connected, from your car to your home to the drones in the sky. Realizing this future will require deep collaboration between government institutions, corporations, and startups worldwide.

10 things I learned from a Venture Capitalist

Working on a start-up is one of the most self-fulfilling experiences you’ll ever encounter. Nothing ever goes as planned, you’ll fail numerous times, and you may experience some of the hardest moments in your life, but you learn at such a rapid pace that you either keep up, or be left behind. Many of my prior projects have failed, and many others were successful, but I’ve learned so much from every single one of them. Entrepreneurship can never be taught, it must be experienced. The following is what I’ve learned about entrepreneurship from my experience working with a Venture Capital Firm.

1. Entrepreneurship is hard, many are called, but few are chosen

If entrepreneurship was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn’t have a 10% success rate. It’s easier said that done. You’ve learned about startups failing in class or from others, but it’s not until you’ve experienced it that you realize how difficult it really is. With FreeSkies, we ran into numerous obstacles over the course of the summer in legal, business, and tech. You must be willing to tackle every problem that comes your way. And don’t expect overnight success. You hear that term thrown around often, but every successful company took years and years of hard work and failures before they figured it out. Hang in there and you will be successful too.

2. Entrepreneurship requires more than just energy, it requires insight and timing

The Market always wins. Never let your own passions and beliefs deceive you. You may have the greatest idea and best business model, but if the timing or market isn’t right, you’re sure to fail. Before we ever wrote a single line of code for FreeSkies, we interviewed hundreds of potential clients to see if we were solving a problem they truly had. If you can’t find a market for it, it’s either not the time, or a market doesn’t exist. Iterate on the market, not the product.

3. Sell, Design, Build, in that order

NOT Build, Design, Sell. Before you ever start building, evaluate your market. If you can’t sell your product before you’ve ever built it, there is no market for it. Engineers tend to build before selling. You think you have the next big idea, put in months of work, release the product, only to realize you’re the only one with that problem. Sell before you build! Test your assumptions, then go build what customers will love and recommend. Your product is 80% vision and 20% reality. Spend more time on that vision, figure out the real problem you’re solving, and once you’ve sold your product, that’s when you begin to design and build.

4. Only desperate people buy from startups

Go find that desperate customers and win them over, make them your chief evangelists. Find your niche market, and pursue it voraciously. If your end user isn’t willing to use an 80% product, they’re not your desperate market segment. Your desperate users are those who are willing to use your product no matter how many bugs or issues it may have. It doesn’t need to be complete, it just needs to solve a desperate problem. A great example of this is Cisco. When they first came out with their telecom system, half of the products they shipped arrived dead on delivery. What happened? Their customers bought another one. Cisco was solving a desperate problem that hadn’t been solved, and people were paying an arm and a leg to solve it.

5. Value before Growth Hypothesis, but not together

The value hypothesis tests whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once they start using it. The growth hypothesis tests how new customers will discover a product or service. Before you think about your growth, ensure you’re delivering value. Don’t try to scale too quickly, have some patience and make sure you are deliver real value to your customers before anything else, growth will follow.

6. Double down on what’s working, and don’t worry about what isn’t

It’s inconsequential. It’s important to learn from your mistakes, but stop dwelling on the past. If a certain plan doesn’t work, learn from it, and move on. Find what’s working, whether it’s speaking with certain customers, marketing on a specific medium, or speaking with investors, find what works and double down. When we attempted to contact potential users through blogs and forums for FreeSkies, we generated more response on certain forums, and less on others. Instead of spending time on why we weren’t generating leads from certain forums, we doubled down on the ones that were. A few other teams during our fellowship catered to very few clients, solving only the problems that they had. By the end of the fellowship, they realized they weren’t their real customers, and had built a product with no market. Double down on what’s working, and leave the rest.

7. Leadership requires selflessness

A Leader does not delegate tasks and watch as others do the work. In a startup, a leader is able to put down their ego and place the company above themselves. It’s not about what you’ve accomplished, it’s about what your company has accomplished. Leadership requires sacrifice, it requires taking risks. Pick a direction and go with it. “We might be wrong, but we are not confused.”

8. Be Compelling, Be Passionate

“Follow your passions and you’ll succeed!” Many of you may have heard this advice, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s important to work on something you truly enjoy, you must also be flexible. A startup requires multiple hats, and if you’re not well equipped, be prepared to fail. You’re not just an engineer, designer, or businessman in a startup, you’re an entrepreneur. Be compelling and passionate in everything that you do, whether it’s coding, presenting, designing, or all of the above.

9. Treat People the Right Way

With Integrity, Honesty, and Kindness. It goes a long way when you’re building your networks. In the startup world, relationships and connections go a long way, treat them with respect. Maneuvering Silicon Valley isn’t about having the best product, it’s about who you know and that applies to everything, jobs, friends, leads, customers, what ever it is, it will be based on relationships. Never burn bridges.

10. Embrace that you are a stumbler

We all are. We all make mistakes. Recognize your mistakes, hold yourself accountable, and be honest. The biggest mistake you can make in a startup, is inaction. You may be wrong, but at least you’re not confused. At FreeSkies, we’ve made many mistakes over the course of the past few months. We recognized them and learned from them, but always held each other accountable. If you make a mistake admit it and learn from it. Heroism comes from empathy.

Bonus: People don’t remember what you say, they remember how they felt when you said it

Make yourself memorable. You’re not selling a product, you’re selling an experience. Focus on the problem you’re solving and don’t play up your product or technology. Focus on their emotions, and you’ll win the crowd.

How To Get More Done At Your Desk

A few days ago, one of my close friends, Ben Ng, wrote an article illustrating “How to get more done at your desk”. As a college entrepreneur himself, he has the experience and knowledge to know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to being a college entrepreneur. He summarizes that it’s important to have a warm, humid environment, an ergonomic desk and keyboard, a posture defining chair, a cooler light around your desk, and a large monitor. All of these factors come together in ensuring your work-space is as productive as possible. You can read his entire article at the link below:

How To Get More Done At Your Desk

Quito, Ecuador

It’s that time again. In less than 10 hours from now, I’ll be headed abroad once again. Destination: Quito, Ecuador. It might be the new year talking, but thinking back, I never really envisioned myself travelling abroad as much as I am. It may even be the best experiences of my undergraduate career. Coming into college, as a freshman I knew nothing about what I wanted to do with my life or even what I wanted to do in college. Studying abroad has served as that answer.

These next 2 weeks will be another adventure, but different than my experiences experiences. Madrid was my first experience abroad and alone. It allowed me to learn more about myself, the people around me, and taught me a lot about the Spanish culture. Toulouse was different in the sense that it compounded on the knowledge and experiences I’ve collected in my Experience Bank from Madrid, and allowed me to open my mind to engineering in Europe and engineering standards abroad. I learned a lot about the culture, but I also met with companies, collaborated with engineers, and got up close and personal with an A380.

For the next 2 weeks, we will be exploring Ecuador while interning with companies for social good in Ecuador, finding problems, performing case studies, and developing solutions. Quito will combine my past study abroad experiences with the Silicon Valley Workshop that I was a part of last year. It will allow me to speak with entrepreneurs who have started social start ups in Quito for the betterment of the Ecuadorian people. We will be visiting startups like ROMP, the Range of Motion project in Ecuador working to provide prosthetic and orthotic care to those in need. We will also be visiting Inga Alpaca, a family owned business working to increase jobs through producing goods made of Alpaca yarn. I’m looking forward to another adventure in Ecuador. If my past experiences have anything to show for it, it’ll be another journey to add to my Experience Bank. For news and updates on my journey, be sure to check out this site often.

The Experience Bank

What is the meaning of life?

No, I’m not trying to pose a question with a philosophical solution to the ultimate question, but it does beg the relatively simple question, “What do you want to do with your life?” Most people would say they want to have a stable job, a family, settle down, make a lot of money, retire, live happily, but none of these responses really answer that question. People have a tendency to pursue happiness. While there can be misconceptions about how to attain happiness, it is in our nature to pursue it, and to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives. People have conceived various solutions to satisfy this craving, from religion to government, to satisfying our curiosities, but we are so busy cultivating our intellectual skills in the pursuit of successful careers, that we neglect the pursuit of happiness. Very rarely do our solutions satisfy that need for happiness. In response to that problem, I’d like to propose another solution, the experience bank.

Your Experience Bank is a collection of many firsts throughout your lifetime, from big firsts like your college graduation, your first job, your first car, your first house, your first child, to little milestones like your first time driving, first love, first road trip, first time injured, first time abroad, and so on.

Throughout the course of your lifetime you’re constantly depositing experiences into your experience bank. It provides a glimpse into you, your identity, your being. These very experiences shape who you are as a person, both good and bad.

I’ve had many experiences that I have deposited into my experience bank. Experiences like being involved with Business Professionals of America, an experience that has helped me grow personally and socially, attending the University of Illinois, an experience that has helped me understand college and understand what my identity means to me, starting SnoHassle or FreeSkies, experiences that have allowed me to grow my skills in entrepreneurship while expanding my knowledge beyond the field of engineering, going abroad for the first, second, and third time, an experience that has shaped my understanding of the world and ignited my insatiable desire to travel. These experiences have allowed me to learn more about myself, and have shaped my identity. It is because of these experiences, consisting of both actions I’ve taken and those I haven’t, that have determined my future, and allowed me to attain happiness. The actions you take and the decisions you make over the course of your lifetime can be both good and bad, slowly carving out your identity, and filling that bank.

It is at these crucial moments in your life that a few important questions must be asked. Is that experience worth adding to your experience bank? Where do you draw the line? How does this experience shape your identity? Some experiences can grow you while others can hurt you physically, mentally, and psychologically. Some experiences may be illegal, some can compromise your morality, some can hurt those around you, some can test your honesty, your character, and your trust. It can be wonderful to fill your experience bank with every experience possible, but it’s also important to understand that certain experiences can mar your identity and degrade your character. Not all experiences can be controlled by you, in fact, many of them have been imposed on you, both good and bad, but it is in your power to make the most of that experience and shape it in a way that benefits your experience bank.

So this is the challenge I propose to you. Take it upon yourself to fill your experience bank with the best experiences. When making decisions throughout your life, think about how it affects your experience bank. Will having a stable job, settling down, earning a lot of money, or retiring grow your experience bank? When you’re on your deathbed, it’s not about how much money you have or what your job was, it’s about how you’ve filled your experience bank, and what you’ve experienced.