The Era Of The Drone Has Arrived


Stephanie Chan

September 11, 2014

Drones are transitioning from military use to big business. So says Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud storage system Box, Wednesday in San Francisco.

Levie was joined by Skycatch’s Christian Sanz and NASA’s Parimal Kopardekar for a TechCrunch Disrupt panel aptly titled “Game of Drones.” The trio hit the Disrupt stage followed by a tiny drone with a video camera that panned over the crowd, broadcasting its footage on the hall’s huge screens. 

The big questions for the drone panel was accessibility of the flying robots, uses, and safety. 

Given the video feed taken from the panel’s small, mosquito-like drone, many are concerned about what a drone-filled sky means for civilian privacy, not to mention safety.

Drones randomly dropping on people’s heads is a possibility that can be mechanically addressed. But the main conundrum is that domestic drone safety standards are fuzzy at best. Levie says that with no precedent to work with, we must look to the government to create specific privacy and safety laws regarding drones. 

“We see people like Richard Branson and Martha Stewart flying drones,” says Levie. “But these are the flashiest cases, and we’re only seeing the initial use. We’re still in the hobbiest drone phase.”

Drones have the ability to collect massive amounts of geographical data, meaning that these robots can aid projects like oil spill cleanups and search and rescue missions. The future is “going to be less about Martha Stewart and more about these scenarios,” Levie says. “If you’re an entrepreneur today, that’s where you should be putting your bets in this space.” 

Levie also says this change is happening because the ecosystem and public understanding of drones is evolving as well.

Drones first had a military connotation, like the Air Force’s unmanned aerial vehicles Predator and Reaper. The highest end use cases then transformed into hobbiest use cases, which have gained traction in the past five years. 

“It was in that time that cost curve dropped dramatically,” says Levie, “Now drone components make it efficient and cheap for enterprises to augment drones for their own uses and labor. We are now seeing drones in commerce use cases, in public safety, municipality. It is now the era where you will see drones in any types of business.” 

Images by Selena Larson

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