So long 2016, Vaya Con Dios Intellectual Honesty

auvsi

There are so many things that happened during the last 12 months it would be almost impossible to hit it all. Twenty Sixteen might very well be remembered as the year the wheels came off the drone cart. So let’s hit the highpoint of history.  Number one, DJI’s Frank Wang, from the new Silicon Valley of drones, Shenzhen China,

is the undisputed Steve Jobs of Drones!

Licensing and registration 

Part 107. Not bad and very close to what the RCAPA had advocated for since 2004. It would have been nice if we could have gotten into the air sooner rather than later, but we are here now, and there are few excuses to cry that you can’t make money with drones. Regular BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) operations were never on the table in the first go around, and anyone that told you different was either ill-informed, a wishful thinker or trying to get folks to double down on questionable lobbying.

Data (risk) 

Those who followed my op-eds will recall that I have been banging the drum (marching band style) about the need for data to determine the risk drones pose to the National Airspace System (NAS) and nonparticipants on the ground. And I don’t mean models, conjecture or hearsay; I’m talking the ye olde tyme scientific method. You know, the repeatable stuff that an independent third party could replicate or peer review.  Up until recently, that was crazy talk. I’ve been chastised, and it has even been inferred that I was a poor advocate for the drone technology because I didn’t go along with junk science or outright BS. And it wasn’t only because the folks that did the junk science didn’t pay ME $60K to peddle their hyperbole. I am not a lawyer and I will not promote bullshit detrimental to our cause.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/flight/drones/a24467/drone-plane-collision/

Data (security)

This is going to be a topic that picks up steam in 2017. All I can say is get out in front of this one and read the Terms of Use/Service for your cellphone app and or cloud storage provider or drone OEM. Sharing data with third parties and foreign governments may turn out to be a hassle for some end-users and their customers.

Drones (definition)

“My drone is/are fully autonomous!” Do you mean self-aware, self-learning and intuitive? Or, do you mean preprogrammed for a specific or certain task?  

Was it just the perfect storm with inexperience and lack of understanding or was it a calculated move by certain companies to bury the competition and sell more products? Looks like the losers are Best buy and 3DRobotics. The list of the following participants really let us down based on conjecture from irrelevant science.   

 https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=84125

Now the rest of the world may have to suffer also due to our inept and or self-serving representation. I hear the FOIA’ed minutes don’t put the participants in a good light. All I can do is offer my condolences to the rest of the World and know my hands are clean, as I did not serve on any of the ill-equipped groups.

A numbers game 

Every time I see a drone industry valuation forecast I cringe. I cringe again when it sites the AUVSI economic forecast. I hear the AUVSI is working on another “political” (might just be an in-house euphemism for phonebook or dartboard numbers??) forecast to help us move the ball forward on BVLOS. We could have been in the air in 2012 with favorable language in the reauthorization bill, but executive leadership wanted to go the forecast “win” route.

We have about 15K +/-  FAA certificated UAS pilots splitting up billions of dollars worth of market share on a few million drones.  Fair enough, but the numbers just don’t make sense there or with the 2.5 million drones being sold over 2016 and the 1.2 million last Christmas and only 600,000 registered including RC aircraft.  It would appear that the FAA might have a compliance issue? While we are at it, I just don’t know what to say about 7 million by 2020 and all of these companies going belly up.

Business for 3DRobotics sure as heck wasn’t up 250% as they lost a whopping $100 to $125 million of other peoples money. At last report, Best Buy is blowing the world’s smartest drone out at $299. Ouchie!  

Karma was definitely the wildcard story of the year, but it’s not a total loss as they still have the Karma Grip (ground drone). Will we see those be rolled out next year or is it straight to QVC? Since first starting this piece, a lawsuit from the shareholders and second launch announced for spring. Maybe they should change the name to Bardo (Tibetan Buddhism) as the whole thing is being seen as a ruse to put the lid on the lawsuit dharma bomb. Who knows, maybe there are a few thousand folks out there who’d be willing to overpay for a back in the day drone experience??  Pictures of Lilly, what more can I say on that one besides a Producers movie remake.

Now that the year is all said and done, we learned that the drone titans apparently couldn’t find a quality business management cellphone app, had delusions of grandeur, and one of the seven deadly sins: buying your own bullshit. Most of the companies paid little attention to the policy when it came to development and did whatever wherever they wanted. The justification was wrapped in the notion that they were developers and in that same vein, false promises were made to VC investors. The VC investors are responsible for the loss for not hiring people with experience or know how. Mainly they looked to kids with-selfie drones that claimed to be experts for the info on where to place their Fund’s bets.

Most of the success stories (drone companies with paying customers) followed that exact model. Companies that find themselves pivoting and partnering now are fighting the same scofflaw and contempt that they instilled into the industry. Be warned, the hucksters have moved on to the BVLOS Holy Grail as the key to making money in drones and a new 10-year lease on relevance in the conjecture game.

Individual end-users and businesses still have a chance at the bonanza gold. Just do some research before spending hard earned money on some dude’s pipe dream.

Happy droning!

(Editors additon)

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).