My son is obsessed with drones.
He has become quite the pilot of his Air Hog Helix X4 2.4 GHz Stunt Quad Copter that retails for $63.63. I had to explain to my eight-year-old that the term “drone” was commonly used when discussing the military version, as he was only familiar with the toy version. But the technology around drones is evolving and the conversation is changing. And it’s not just the military or the toy companies that are using the term. Drones are becoming big business and they are changing the way companies are thinking about their business.
A few months ago Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, went on 60 Minutes, and shared a big surprise by introducing the world to a top-secret–until that moment–R&D project: “The Octocopter,” which would fly small packages directly to your doorstop in 30 minutes.
While Amazon’s plan may be a few years away as it would require FAA approvals, delivery by drone is certainly in the works. It may not just a game-changer in the package-delivery industry, but it also will be a revolutionary concept that many industries will businesses will consider utilizing in some form or fashion.
Certainly, while Amazon presents the drone concept in the most positive fashion on 60 Minutes, there are certainly serious concerns with privacy, safety and security that accompany the benefits. All of those concerns need to be examined closely before Amazon and other business begin utilizing these flying robots.
Imagine some of the potential marketing implications. Pizza delivery just got a whole lot more interesting and fast. If FedEx embraces the technology, they may want to think about re-writing their old tagline to “when it absolutely, positively has to get there in 15 minutes.” Even Gatorade which has long tried to become the ubiquitous sports drink available at “every point of thirst,” could now make that a reality by having drones hover over beaches, parks, and bike paths to “drop off” refreshing drinks as ordered via cell phone.
Even more exciting than any of the marketing opportunities is exploring the potential of how drones could serve humanity for good. I recently watched a TED talk on Henry Evans and it opened my mind to how this technology is already doing some extraordinary things for people with limited mobility.
At the age of 40, Henry Evans was a father of four, a CFO of a Silicon Valley firm and an alum of the University of Notre Dame. After suffering a debilitating stroke-like attack that left him a bed-ridden quadriplegic and mute, he decided, “life was still worth living” and found a passion for using technology to improve his quality of life. With the use of robots and aerial drones, Evans has found a way to navigate the world. He can inspect his garden, stroll around campus, and even do household chores. The same technology that has fascinated the likes of Jeff Bezos, the Pentagon and my son for commerce, war and play is also being applied to people like Henry Evans to help them live a more fulfilling life.
Last night, as my son carefully navigated his Air Hog Helix X4 2.4 GHz Stunt Quad to hover directly above my head as I tried to cook dinner, I was both a little annoyed that the thing was in my personal air space and impressed with his ability to control the toy. The only question I had was: How many years until I can have him fly it over to the store to pick up the ice cream?