Our favorite drone policy/law analyst, Ryan Calo, has a smart op-ed in CNN today arguing against over-regulation of drones, which could hurt the grassroots innovation that communities like this have encouraged. Excerpt:
The real [drone] innovation will come when companies such as Amazon mix their robotics strategy with their love for open platforms.
What does that mean?
Recall that the first personal computers did not come to the market until the mid-1970s. Before that, government and industry purchased or leased computer equipment dedicated to a particular purpose such as database management. That's analogous to what Amazon and other companies are doing today.
The real explosion of innovation in computing occurred when devices got into the hands of regular people. Suddenly consumers did not have to wait for IBM or Apple to write every software program they might want to use. Other companies and individuals could also write a "killer app." Much of the software that makes personal computers, tablets and smartphones such an essential part of daily life now have been written by third-party developers.
As author Jonathan Zittrain points out, it would be hard to name a category of important software -- from word-processing to e-mail -- that some computer hobbyist did not create first at home. Today, popular apps such as Snapchat or Instagram are used by millions of people. Yet, both were created by just two or three people in their 20s.
Once companies such as Google, Amazon or Apple create a personal drone that is app-enabled, we will begin to see the true promise of this technology. This is still a ways off. There are certainly many technical, regulatory and social hurdles to overcome. But I would think that within 10 to 15 years, we will see robust, multipurpose robots in the hands of consumers.
Worried about your kid getting to and from the bus? A drone app lets you follow her there by trailing her phone and returning when she waves. Selling your house? An app on a drone will command it to fly around your property and stitch together a panorama of photos for a virtual tour. Same drone, thousands of possibilities.
Put another way, the day when Amazon or Apple opens a drone app store is the day when drone innovation takes off. On an open model, the sky is quite literally the limit.