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Drones Hover Over the IoT Sector

Jason Meyers
10/23/2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson (he of the Long Tail fame) is offering a glimpse of how he sees drones fitting into the developing Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem -- and it's not as far-fetched as you might expect.

Anderson was at the GigaOm Structure Connect event here representing his newest venture, 3D Robotics Inc ., the VC-backed, Berkeley-based startup Anderson co-founded in 2009. The company's mission is to equip drones with mapping and image-capturing technology for relatively mundane B2B applications in industries like agriculture and construction.

In Anderson's vision, a drone can function as just another connected thing on an Internet full of them, and one with a unique perspective to gather intelligence. It's another projected role for drone technology -- one that sits somewhere between drones as hobbyist toys or delivery devices and drones as potential sources of high-altitude, high-speed connectivity. (See Forget the Internet, Brace for Skynet and Facebook, Google in New Drone Race.)

"A drone these days is a connected device -- carrying sensors, fully autonomous, connected to the Internet," Anderson said. "The perspective it gives from the air is one that's not easy to get."

Equipped with the ability to gather a half terabyte per hour per drone, Anderson said, drones can be used to collect big data that -- properly analyzed -- could benefit some of the "world's biggest industries."

"What if you had a drone that could survey daily, even hourly, and spot disease -- then spray pesticides as you need it? Or spot irrigation leaks?" he said. "You see what Google did with Street View -- this is sky view. The question is what you're going to do with it."


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Indeed, the question of what to do with with the collected intelligence -- popularly known as big data analytics -- is an increasingly relevant one for all players in the IoT ecosystem, from device makers to applications developers to network operators. Amar Hanspal, senior vice president of Autodesk, joined Anderson in the event's session to weigh in on how the data collected from such drones could be applied and used in various industries.

"You can start to do assessments of things: Are crops growing the right way? Are buildings in the right spot? You start answering questions," Hanspal said. "We now have software that's making sense of the data from the sky."

The drones-as-data collectors model is far from concrete, especially given nagging drone-related issues of privacy and airspace regulation. But as Anderson pointed out, the concept is more about the data analytics than it is about the method of collection.

"There are so many industries have specific questions that haven't thought about what a drone can do," he said. "We need to answer questions these industries have. A farmer doesn't want a drone, they want answers."

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading

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nasimson
nasimson
11/3/2014 | 2:57:38 AM
Re: Drone Reality?
@ SachinEE:

> Any malfunctioning drone midflight can fall on someone and kill them.

Really. I thought at best it would hurt someone, given its lighter weight and absence of any fuel. Or am I missing something here?
nasimson
nasimson
11/3/2014 | 2:55:18 AM
Re: Drone Reality?
> Regulations are non existent from civil drones and this will have to change to cover
> all the possible breaches

Not just civil drones. Regulations are also non-existent for military drones. Drones taking off from one country and bombarding the targets in another country becomes a complex legal matter.
Kruz
Kruz
10/29/2014 | 8:22:49 AM
Re: Drone Reality?
As drones becomes more and more popular, there is no doubt that privacy will be an issue.

Regulations are non existent from civil drones and this will have to change to cover all the possible breaches.
thebulk
thebulk
10/27/2014 | 3:18:21 AM
Re: Drone Reality?
There may also be privacy issues that come into play along with this, if drones are recording footage over people property then all types of problems could pop up. 
SachinEE
SachinEE
10/25/2014 | 2:56:27 PM
Re: Drone Reality?
"As a licensed pilot I'm of course intrigued about the possibility of drones as a common place tool. But, I'm still a bit sceptical of the widespread practicality. The FAA is in charge of all airspace, and it's likely there's going to be some pretty stringent rules implemented to regulate drones for public safety as well as to provide separation from existing helicopter and low flying conventional aircraft."

I think the airspace of drones will be at an average level, that is, far below the range of helicopters and other space crafts, however I think too many drones will render too much airspace traffic. Any malfunctioning drone midflight can fall on someone and kill them.
SachinEE
SachinEE
10/25/2014 | 2:53:41 PM
Re: Drone Reality?
Well first of all, there are boundary issues. Whose drone has what kind of land access, that has to be cleared, which I don't think will be solved unless a round-robin fashion appears, which gives us the idea that each drone company will have a limited time slot to operate. If drone companies are acting as third party transport and logistics then markets like Amazon can assign jobs to them based on time multiplexed lottery.
thebulk
thebulk
10/24/2014 | 11:47:40 AM
Re: Drone Reality?
No doubt the legality and regulations are going to be a mess, and they will take years to really figure out who can regulate them and who enforces those regulations, in the mean time there will be tons of other things going on in the IoT and Drone space all waiting to see how regulation unfolds. 
smkinoshita
smkinoshita
10/24/2014 | 11:26:19 AM
Re: Drone Reality?
kq4ym:  "Not to mention, there's certainly going to be regulation of who controls the drones, most likely requiring a license to fly them."

You're not kidding there!  The regulation is going to be a freaking nightmare -- we're still figuring out the legalities behind the Internet, never mind the possibilities both beneficial and nefarious a drone brings.

I think it'd be worse in Canada compared to the U.S. due to some of our privacy laws.  If drone technology -- pardon the pun -- takes off, I can see one regulation being that one owns low-flying airspace above one's own private property, getting further complicated when multilpe entities share a physical location.  Who owns the low airspace rights?  Yikes.
kq4ym
kq4ym
10/24/2014 | 9:45:36 AM
Drone Reality?
As a licensed pilot I'm of course intrigued about the possibility of drones as a common place tool. But, I'm still a bit sceptical of the widespread practicality. The FAA is in charge of all airspace, and it's likely there's going to be some pretty stringent rules implemented to regulate drones for public safety as well as to provide separation from existing helicopter and low flying conventional aircraft. Not to mention, there's certainly going to be regulation of who controls the drones, most likely requiring a license to fly them. Until those details are worked out, it's going to be the military who are flying them.
mendyk
mendyk
10/23/2014 | 5:43:03 PM
Re: So what
You have a nice day as well. And remember, we value your input on this message board.
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