Column: Here's How the Commercial Drone Industry Can Prove Itself During the Pandemic
In the midst of the current global health crisis, the commercial drone industry is helping businesses keep essential projects on track. Drones are a significant player across a full spectrum of industries, allowing companies in insurance, construction, infrastructure, energy and others to maintain critical operations by safe, contactless solutions. In fact, Barclays estimates the use of drones will result in cost savings of $100 billion across industries.
With the foundation of the industry now maturing and in the midst of a global pandemic, I believe this is a make or break moment for drones to prove their versatility through their utility, safety, and value. Whether through integral data or taking on risky inspections, this is the moment that the commercial drone industry will fulfill its potential.
Utility: As Use Cases Grow, the Commercial Drone Industry Grows
Dan Burton is the Founder and CEO of DroneBase, the largest global drone operations company.
At DroneBase, we have seen how drones have impacted businesses across insurance, construction, real estate, energy, and media. In times of disaster and even this global pandemic, we have been fortunate to enable insurers to get claims to those in need five to six days faster, provide contractors a better, safer way to monitor their sites, and help realtors virtualize their properties to continue to conduct sales. As a result, drones have become a key part of the day-to-day operations across these industries, and continue to do so even during COVID-19.
Our customers are continuing to incorporate drones into their processes and budgets as well as find additional use cases to leverage more technology, and industry analysts are seeing the same trends. According to Tractica, the commercial drone market is experiencing steady, sustained growth and consolidation, with global revenue expected to reach $13.7 billion by 2025.
There are endless possibilities as every industry needs to maintain its assets, whether a solar farm, wind turbines, buildings, or parking lots. This is where I see sustained growth for the drone industry since enterprises should use this time to develop new use cases to efficiently and safely gather the necessary data.
Safety: Putting Humans Out of Peril
When I was just starting DroneBase, the concept of sending a flying machine to inspect anything was unheard of. Instead, humans often put themselves at risk in order to examine construction sites, roofs, or wind turbines. Not to mention, drone pilots can conduct contactless inspections since the time required on a property is minimal and nothing is physically touched by the pilot or drone.
With two feet on the ground and a bird's eye view, over 171,000 professional drone pilots are able to prevent dangerous human inspections of industrial assets. Thanks to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations such as the Part 107 program and Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), the commercial drone industry has been able to grow and flourish.
The industry standard has been to send a human and risk their lives, which no human life is worth the chance. Drones are also providing a second safety layer during this pandemic by maintaining a safe social distance. Continuing the course of strong, helpful guidelines will push the drone industry forward and truly save lives.
Value: Enabling Teams to Make Decisions Through Drone Data
As with most B2B and SaaS companies, you're providing the client with a solution. They need to quickly and easily reach a decision from the service you're providing, whatever that may be. To get companies to adopt a new technology like drones, you need to be orders of magnitude faster, safer, and more affordable - especially as companies look to cut costs and survive the pandemic.
We see two critical layers of value in the drone industry: data capture and data analysis. Enterprise customers increasingly only want to deal with one drone provider who has scalable systems across data capture and data analysis. Scaling drone capture to national, or international reach, is both a software infrastructure and a network problem. If drone operations were being viewed as a commodity before COVID-19, in the current pandemic environment, the ability to safely, quickly, and reliably operate at scale has quickly become a scarce resource. After the industry's growth and hundreds of thousands of missions flown here at DroneBase, we're more confident than ever that the drone industry can be the reliable resource we promised.
Drone data analysis is the second key layer that gets the customer to a fast, accurate decision that pulls the signal from all the noise in the captured data. Drone technology is great at capturing anomalies through imagery - a perfect fit for industrial inspections of similar assets like solar panels or wind turbines. It will be important for the drone industry to prove itself to be a valuable, accurate resource now and after we return to a more normal time.
Thanks to industry efforts, drone technology has the opportunity to make a real impact in this difficult time. Drones already provide a safer way to capture aerial data, and the contact-free inspection drones can provide is more relevant than ever to keep critical infrastructure and essential services running safely during this crisis. It's time for the commercial drone industry to prove itself.
Dan Burton is the Founder and CEO of DroneBase, the largest global drone operations company, which provides businesses with aerial information to make better, real-time decisions about their most critical assets.
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Brad Inman, founder of Inman, the leading real estate news source along with Spencer Rascoff, co-founder, executive chairman at dot.LA will be leading the discussion as the two leading active investors and experts in this space.
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Brad Inman, founder at Inman
Brad Inman, Founder at Inman<p>Award-winning journalist and publisher, Brad Inman is the founder and owner of Inman, real estate's leading name in news, information and innovation since 1983. In addition, his Inman-branded real estate business and technology conferences bring thousands of thought leaders together each year to share best practices and promote innovation. Countless new products and companies have been launched at Inman conferences.</p><p>A native of Carlinville, Illinois, and a graduate of Boston University, Inman began his career as a housing policy analyst and community advocate who parlayed a weekly real estate column in the San Francisco Examiner at the dawn of the Internet era into a series of entrepreneurial ventures. In 1999, Inman founded HomeGain.com, an early provider of online marketing programs. HomeGain was sold to Classified Ventures, LLC, in 2005. That same year, Inman founded TurnHere, an online commercial video platform and, in 2008, founded Vook, an online e-publishing platform. He also was an early investor in Curbed.com and served as chairman of the board before it was sold to Vox Media. A compelling speaker, he is a regular at real estate events around the nation and has been a visiting lecturer in the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.</p>
Spencer Rascoff, Co-Founder, Executive Chairman
Spencer Rascoff, Co-Founder, Executive Chairman<p>Spencer Rascoff is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire and dot.LA, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. He is currently executive chairman of dot.LA and a board member at Zillow and TripAdvisor. In fall 2019 Spencer was a Visiting Executive Professor at Harvard Business School where he co-taught the "Managing Tech Ventures" course. In 2015, Spencer co-wrote and published his first book, the New York Times' Best Seller "Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate." Spencer is the host of "Office Hours," a monthly podcast on dot.LA featuring candid conversations between prominent executives on leadership, diversity and inclusion, and startups. </p>
Here are the latest headlines regarding how the protests around the killing of George Floyd are impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest update.
- Disney will donate $5M to Social Justice Groups
- Blck VC group launches 'We Won't Wait' campaign
- a16z VC firm launches fund to target diverse founders
- Snap stops promoting Trump's account in its Discover feature
Disney will donate $5M to Social Justice Groups<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM2OTY2MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjY2MTY2NX0._jc-luWmLRd9-UnBFZgyZJTm33I9_3T6Ssz9nZ3lkVY/image.jpg?width=980" id="7082f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c602ad745e2c03d3c0175cf24139e96f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
ABC's TV sitcom Blackish aired two "monumental and timely episodes" this week.<p>The Walt Disney company announced Wednesday that it will donate $5 million to nonprofit groups fighting for social justice, starting with a $2 million donation to the NAACP. </p><p>"The killing of George Floyd has forced our nation to once again confront the long history of injustice that black people in America have suffered, and it is critical that we stand together, speak out and do everything in our power to ensure that acts of racism and violence are never tolerated," said Disney chief Bob Chapek in a statement. "This $5 million pledge will continue to support the efforts of nonprofit organizations such as the NAACP that have worked tirelessly to ensure equality and justice."</p><p>In a statement, the company pointed to its previous social justice initiatives, including providing "millions of dollars in grants to help students from underrepresented groups make the dream of higher education a reality, including $2.5 million to the United Negro College Fund." Disney also noted that it matches employee donations to "eligible organizations" and that on Tuesday it re-aired two "monumental and timely episodes" of <em>Black-ish </em>on its ABC television networks before a primetime special titled "America in Pain: What Comes Next?" </p><p>In its quarterly earnings released last month, Disney reported nearly $40 billion in revenue in the six months to March 28, 2020. Net income over the same period was down 68% from the year prior, however, as most of the company's business units have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.</p><p><em>— Sam Blake</em></p>
a16z VC firm launches fund to target diverse founders<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM2OTQ0MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDkwMzg3MH0.dhLyHYGgwtjLRdt65OFroB4fgSdsiZTeTSSEG88d7Mw/image.png?width=980" id="a1f14" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7a1c9842c8f468c18e05cdfc2be667a5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ben and Felicia Horowitz will match up to an additional $5,000,000 total in any other donations.<p>One of Silicon Valley's most prominent venture capital firms <a href="https://a16z.com/2020/06/03/talent-x-opportunity/" target="_blank">announced Wednesday</a> it is launching a new fund designed for entrepreneurs who have the talent, drive and ideas to build great businesses, but lack the background and resources to do so.</p><p>In a blog post, the firm says it has been working on the fund for six months. However, the timing of the news this week is fortunate for an industry with a <a href="https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/vc-firms-have-a-diversity-problem-do-they-care" target="_blank">serious diversity problem. </a><span></span></p><p>a16z plans to fund a small group of founders in the first year, then expand after that. The initial capital will come from $2.2 million in donations from partners. Ben and Felicia Horowitz will match up to an additional $5 from other donations as well. The firm will invest in exchange for equity in the business, but all returns will stay in the fund to finance future entrepreneurs, which aims to back products from underserved communities that also have an "interesting model, niche market, and/or a little traction to indicate the promise and potential."</p><p>"We're venture capitalists, not activists," the firm said in its post. "Entrepreneurship hasn't been accessible to everyone, but the fact remains that being an entrepreneur is one of the most powerful ways to own your own future, to increase mobility across time and place, to invent new ways of doing things, and to forge a new system. As we emerge from this tragic moment, let's build.</p><p><em>dot.LA co-founder and executive chairman Spencer Rascoff is a board partner at a16z.</em></p><p><em><span></span>— Ben Bergman </em></p>
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