"The Private Drone Industry is Like Apple in 1984"

Good article at The Atlantic's Quartz site comparing DJI with 3DR. Sample quote:

The UAV industry is a fairly new one, and right now its main focus is on consumer products. That’s partially because it is growing from a consumer base: What has made them possible is the smartphone revolution, which drove down the price on the tiny electronic components needed to turn low-power remote control aircraft into flying robots that navigate, communicate, and sense. While defense contractors were making expensive and powerful drones for the US military, hobbyists were basically bolting iPhones onto remote-controlled helicopters.

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Comment by Harry on January 26, 2013 at 4:08am

I like my Apple II.  The ArduIMU makes it an Apple IIe.    

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on January 26, 2013 at 7:26am

Hi All,

The only difference here is if you wanted to use your Apple II computer for commerical purposes in the early days of computing, you did not need approval from the Federal Government to do so.

Here in my area of Southern Florida RC planes and other hobby type aircraft (read as amature drones) are highly restricted as to where they can operate. Most municipalities require AMA membership and additional liability bonds in the millions of dollars. Woe be unto any hobbiest who crashes his drone outside the designated areas of operation.

Just a thought.



Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on January 26, 2013 at 7:36am

But all that is expected to change in 2015, when the FAA is expected to give the go-ahead to commercial UAVs.

Why does everybody think this?  There is absolutely ZERO indication that the FAA will allow commercial use in any kind of reasonable manner.  They are only committed to rule on the matter, not necessarily allow it.  In 2015, they could come out and say "yeah, no I don't think so."

Comment by R. D. Starwalt on January 26, 2013 at 8:41am

Kicking Robert's point down the road further...

The FAA has to rule and it *could* mean, like government is apt to do, another FAA office to manage micro-aviation. (John Githens and I are using that term regularly now.) Management might include certification such as schools for training, business that make 'flight certified' components, etc.

The analog I made before was ham radio but the difference is one of insurance and liability. The intellectuals will debate privacy laws and other things they deem ominous. Who will have to pay up when a person or property is damaged will be the arena of lawyers and insurance companies.

My 2 cents:  For professional use (a definitions to be established) a licensing scheme will be developed that also includes some form of certification for the pilot and/or cameraman as well as the aircraft. They may pass out certification numbers like tail numbers on airplanes.

Who knows? My crystal ball is in for calibration and recertification...


Comment by R. D. Starwalt on January 26, 2013 at 8:47am

Oh... I still have dibs on the phrase "Drone Police".

"Drone Enforcement Agency" would clash with an existing acronym... wouldn't that make a great scene in a movie?

Bruce Willis' character walks up to kid buzzing his quad around a football field. He whips out his badge (a propellor icon with braid and other bling surrounds his badge number) and ID. "I'm Joe Wilson of the DEA." The kids brings his quad in for a neat, crisp landing and looks at Joe. 'DEA? I don't know nothing about drugs!"

Joe looks at the kid, "Not that DEA! Drone Enforcement Agency..that DEA."

"Oh. The Drone Police.. why didn't you say so?"


Comment by Phil Gordon on January 26, 2013 at 11:47am

I`m fairly new to the scene Chris,and from what I`m seeing it is the start of something exciting that the GP can get into and enjoy.

When I look at a multirotor etc I see a lot of technology that has been around for a long time,though improved and modified somewhat.

I`m waiting for the real technological changes eg power systems,and systems to power a vehicle.

Comment by Paul Thompson on January 26, 2013 at 3:33pm

I enjoyed your long post Thomas and I promise not to spam you unless you consider this spam. :-)

I agree with what you said and have known for some time that this hobby I enjoy will get outlawed someday. But I may continue until the laws are enforced because we have too many laws that aren't enforced so that one will just be one more. :-) I hardly ever even draw much attention these days but of course I know that one bad accident could change all that in a split second. :-(

Comment by Scott Berfield on January 26, 2013 at 3:35pm

Incredibly cheap computer systems with great I/O, Powerful and afffordable power system and motors, sensors unavailable to consumers until very recently (many of them pioneered by the game industry), advanced vision systems, cheap compilers, home computer-driven fabrication for parts -- we are definitely at hte beginning of a very interesting world -- ain't it fun??

Comment by John Wiseman on January 26, 2013 at 4:27pm

In 2015, they could come out and say "yeah, no I don't think so."

This doesn't seem realistic.  The trend for UAVs is clear, and isn't the current status for commercial UAV use in the Unites States already pretty much already "I don't think so"?  My prediction: They will allow commercial use, but with restrictions that DIYers won't be particularly happy about.

Comment by Dennis Collins on January 26, 2013 at 5:41pm

There are too many commercial uses for this technology, and too many people using it outside the US for there to be serious restrictions placed on it. The Powers That Be in the US will want to participate. To not be left behind.

This wave might not be as large as the PC revolution. In reality, it is but a part of it. I would only take issue with the comparison date of Apple and 1984. By the time of the Mac intro, years had gone by since the introduction of the 8 bit hobby computers, and then the first major players, Apple, Tandy and Commodore, in the retail markets of the late 70's. By 84, many millions had been made, companies built and others failed.

This is more like the late 70's, where the average person is beginning to be aware of the technology, and commercial uses are just barely beginning to be found.

We have a long way to go. And I intend on having fun doing it.


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