Drone technology may be the next disruptive innovation. But drones must fly over many hurdles before they’re delivering to our doorsteps.
Last week Google unveiled its secret aerial drone delivery project, Project Wing. The idea is simple: unmanned aircraft buzz the skies above us carrying products to our homes and businesses. Amazon shared its own vision of all this months ago. Here’s Google’s “PR” video:
And here’s the video from Amazon that basically put drones on the map as a “home delivery” disruptive technology:
When I was a pimpled-face 14 year old, I too flew remote controlled helicopters in the sky. That was 30 years ago.
So, why is a glamorized remote control helicopter garnering so much frenzied attention? Because Google and Amazon say so.
Outside of Apple, these two companies now garner so much of our PR mindshare that they can release low-budget vision videos and create headlines on CNN. But that doesn’t mean we should jump on the drone bandwagon just yet.
Barring the vision of having a personal drone ‘butlering’ a six-pack to your doorstep, it’s unclear how much social acceptance (or social good) these flying devices might really provide. Unlike my remote control helicopter from 30 years ago, drones today can garner wireless communications, cameras, GPS, and – yes – weapons. We’ve seen the “successes” of drone strikes for years in the US military.
The true adoption of drones is a long way off. Here’s why:
Regulatory Hurdles – and not just air-traffic but city, county, and state regulations
Social Backlash – who wants a peeping-Tom drone peering in your bathroom window?
Meaningful Applications – hobbyists will lead the way. Truly socially beneficial uses for will take time to evolve.
Unclear ROI – the return on investment for businesses isn’t there yet.
The PR frenzy around drones goes way beyond ‘dronies’ here (though photo-bombing tourists’ snapshots could be the next Tower Photo-bomb meme). Funny as dronies may be, they may also be the most relevant and widely embraced use of the technology in the near future.
So, what’s the near term opportunity for drones? Here’s my recommendation: Get in touch with your inner child and create your own next-gen, souped-up, remote controlled helicopter (aka drone). Keep tabs on the on-the-surface silly applications like dronies. The seeds of disruptive innovation are often found in the least likely places. But remember. They can take years to grow.