If 2014 was the year of the drone, let’s make 2015 the year of the payload!
Admittedly, year of the payload doesn’t sound quite as exciting as year of the drone but it has to be the way forward for a number of good reasons that I’ll try to expand on in this post.
But first, Happy New Year to all our friends and followers. I hope 2015 is a good one for you!
I often get asked what drone I fly and so end up having long discussions about hexacopters and octocopters in various configurations. Bizarrely, we don’t end up talking about the camera payload very quickly in most cases. The same happens when I get asked to consult on equipment where the conversation often goes something like:
“I’m thinking of buying a drone.”
“I’ve done lots of research and I’ve come down to (insert several drone names with a distinct ghostly or terminator theme)”
“OK, great, what camera are you thinking of flying?”
“Erm… I haven’t thought much about that, the best I can I suppose.”
If you can imagine the same conversation in a camera accessory shop but insert “tripod” instead of “drone”, you begin to see the problem.
Drones have changed a lot over the last couple of years, moving from aluminium framed box section creations lovingly crafted in sheds and garages to much more uniform designs churned out by the thousand. Reliability is improving, failsafe features are getting there. As a result a proliferation of drone use is occurring, causing a few understandable shockwaves in terms of privacy, legislation etc. that I’m sure will iron themselves out eventually.
So, whilst drone development will continue for a long time to come, it is time that we begin to see them for what they are (at least for the majority of the industry), flying tripods. Incredibly versatile tripods, but tripods nonetheless. Yes, they are fun too at times, but they are still a tripod! As a result we need to be encouraging people to consider payload as the priority and then matching the appropriate UAS to give a total solution.
So what can a change in focus do for the industry? A few ideas that people may wish to discuss.
Reduce public fears over drones
Once people begin to look past the drone itself it becomes much more possible to sell the advantages of being able to carry a sensor payload into useful situations without, for example, putting employees into dangerous situations themselves.
Allow meaningful conversation with customers
Generally my customers have no interest in whether I am photographing from the top of a ladder or flying the latest cutting edge drone. All they are really interested in is the end product. It makes much more sense to focus on the end result and the payload than the drone itself.
Allow effective research and development collaboration
We can make almost anything fly but, at the end of the day, if my sensor payload doesn’t acquire useful data, I may as well not bother. If we begin to discuss payload, and ultimately the data to be acquired, we can generally work backwards to a drone solution that will carry the payload appropriately. This means working closely with end users to develop the complete system.
Allow current legislation to be employed for data protection and privacy
A lot of time and effort is being wasted in trying to write new legislation for drone technology. In the UK particularly the CAA has worked hard to develop workable legislation, it may need some fine tuning, but I don’t feel it needs much. We also have perfectly adequate data protection legislation to deal with privacy issues when it comes to cameras. Separating the payload from the drone allows these two issues to be considered independently and much more logically.
Now that the industry is maturing, it also seems to be logical to begin to think about universal payload mounts and power connections but I suspect we are quite a way from that yet.
Anyway, let’s raise a glass and welcome 2015, the year of the payload! [🙂]