On February 26th, 2017, DJI announced the new Matrice 200 platform at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Matrice 200 comes in three variants; the M200, M210, and M210 RTK. This new drone platform marks DJI's serious and well-considered entry into industrial-grade drones for enterprise. With hugely useful features like ADS-B, dual and top-mounted gimbals, redundancy, and IP43 classification, this multirotor is poised as an incredible threat to senseFly's Albris, Intel's Falcon 8, and Aerialtronics' Altura Zenith (among others). An estimated 38 minutes of flight time and compatibility with the latest Zenmuse suite of cameras round out the DJI M200's impressive specs. The only thing DJI has left to do is deliver.
Airware is a commercial drone company which was founded in 2011, a couple of years before the drone industry truly began to explode in popularity. They're somewhat notorious for having raised more venture capital funding than nearly any other drone company—over $100 million. Airware recently acquired Redbird, a drone software business which specializes in providing solutions to the mining and quarry industry. Furthermore, shortly after this interview took place, Airware announced that they took on a strategic investment from Caterpillar, the global leader in construction machinery. Buddy Michini, Airware's CTO, has been with the company since the beginning. Buddy sits down with Ian to discuss Airware's history, their strategic enterprise focus towards the mining and utility industries, and reveal learnings from 9 years in commercial drones. The conversation also touches on Airware's work with State Farm Insurance and tips on what skills are useful to start a career in the drone industry.
AT&T has 65,000 cell sites around the U.S. which require constant maintenance. Some of these cell sites can be towers that are hundreds of feet high and others can be massive stadiums with hundreds of antennae. The site maintenance is accomplished by 15,000 tower technicians. Technicians perform their tasks by risking their lives, physically climbing up the cell towers, or burn lots of time walking around stadiums for entire weeks, testing signal strength. Art Pregler is the Director of Construction & Engineering Mobility Systems at AT&T. The company moved from a drone "exploratory phase" in 2015 to "fully operational" in September 2016, with an entirely outsourced model—hiring 3rd party drone service providers. AT&T employs these drone service providers to inspect their cell towers via aerial photos, videos, photogrammetry, and even machine learning. Ian coaxes Art to reveal how—among other things—using drones decreased AT&T's cell site maintenance times from one week, to just four hours, a 900% savings.
Thomas Haun is Executive Vice President of PrecisionHawk, a drone company in North Carolina with $29 million in total venture funding. Besides developing their own software, making a fixed-wing drone, and reselling DJI drones, PrecisionHawk works on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) regulatory research with the FAA on the Pathfinder program. Additionally, the company develops LATAS, a technology for the future of airspace management. And to round it all out, PrecisionHawk even owns a satellite imagery company called TerraServer. Thomas and Ian discuss the dichotomy between commercial drones and regulations, the future of PrecisionHawk, and the fact that a drone can literally kill you—but also save your life.
Steve Hogan is an attorney in Florida whose firm specializes in drone law. He's also the host and creator of the Drone Law Today podcast. Ian and Steve sync up over the airwaves to grapple with some hotly debated (and controversial) drone legal issues. Who owns the airspace above my house? Is shooting a drone out of the sky a federal offense? What will Trump's administration do for—or against—commercial drones? And Do I need a Part 107 certificate to compete in drone FPV racing for money? Steve and Ian make a concentrated, joint effort to get to the bottom of these issues and settle them once and for all. Unsurprisingly, it gets pretty complicated.