Your Business Will Employ Drones, Maybe Sooner Than You Think

order fulfillment provider for online retailers.”>Jake is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at Red Stag Fulfillment, an order fulfillment provider for online retailers.

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The drones are coming, whether your business is ready for them or not. Amazon Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing are working toward making drone delivery a reality. Despite significant regulatory hurdles in the United States, drone startups are multiplying like, well, drones.

The U.K. is well ahead of the U.S. in the regulation and deployment of drones. A London branch of restaurant chain YO! Sushi has experimented with delivery drones, and Amazon is moving forward with plans to roll out drone delivery in Great Britain. Even Royal Mail has hopped on the trend: The mail service believes that drones can help deliver the post in rural regions and give the government service an edge against commercial competitors. Airlines and oil rigs already use drones to inspect equipment that is hard for humans to access.

If you think that your industry has no use for drones, ask yourself if your competitors would agree. In the near future, the question may become not whether you should employ drones, but how many drones you can afford to deploy.

Regulations rein in drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees drone flights in the U.S. The agency issued rules to govern the use of drones in 2016. These regulations included the requirement that the drone operator always have eyes on the drone. This places severe limits on the usefulness of drones for their most obvious application: delivery.

Most observers believe that U.S. regulators will need to find a way to accommodate a broader range of drone deployment. A sign that this is on the horizon came last October, when the Trump administration told the FAA to allow local jurisdictions to test their own drone regulations. The program laid out in the president’s memo would allow drones to fly out of operator sightlines and to fly at night, both of which are currently prohibited under FAA rules.

Drone innovation is already pushing the envelope well beyond the operations envisioned in the FAA rules. California-based Skydio recently released a drone that flies on autopilot. While the R1 has a battery life of only 16 minutes and is designed to follow a human subject (The New York Times dubbed it the “selfie drone”), it’s just one sign of how fast the technology behind drone flight has evolved.

Drones disrupt the media.

Even under the FAA’s current strict guidelines (and under much looser regulations in other parts of the world), drones have already disrupted traditional media. Soaring aerial shots of remote landscapes are no longer the province of well-funded National Geographic camera crews. TV news helicopters are giving way to drone-mounted cameras that can deliver overhead shots of crowds and events for a fraction of the price.

The leading drone manufacturer, China’s DJI, sells drones for prices starting under $400. High-end drones range up to a few thousand dollars — about what a serious photography enthusiast might pay for a top-of-the-line DSLR camera.

The accessibility of drone technology has given enterprising photographers and videographers greater ability to disrupt the industry most disrupted by technological innovation: the media. A growing number of entrepreneurs are launching sophisticated media operations on a shoestring budget, thanks to drones.

The next industry to be turned on its head by this new technology is likely to be fulfillment. That will affect every business that sells products online.

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Shutterstock

The drones are coming, whether your business is ready for them or not. Amazon Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing are working toward making drone delivery a reality. Despite significant regulatory hurdles in the United States, drone startups are multiplying like, well, drones.

The U.K. is well ahead of the U.S. in the regulation and deployment of drones. A London branch of restaurant chain YO! Sushi has experimented with delivery drones, and Amazon is moving forward with plans to roll out drone delivery in Great Britain. Even Royal Mail has hopped on the trend: The mail service believes that drones can help deliver the post in rural regions and give the government service an edge against commercial competitors. Airlines and oil rigs already use drones to inspect equipment that is hard for humans to access.

If you think that your industry has no use for drones, ask yourself if your competitors would agree. In the near future, the question may become not whether you should employ drones, but how many drones you can afford to deploy.

Regulations rein in drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees drone flights in the U.S. The agency issued rules to govern the use of drones in 2016. These regulations included the requirement that the drone operator always have eyes on the drone. This places severe limits on the usefulness of drones for their most obvious application: delivery.

Most observers believe that U.S. regulators will need to find a way to accommodate a broader range of drone deployment. A sign that this is on the horizon came last October, when the Trump administration told the FAA to allow local jurisdictions to test their own drone regulations. The program laid out in the president’s memo would allow drones to fly out of operator sightlines and to fly at night, both of which are currently prohibited under FAA rules.

Drone innovation is already pushing the envelope well beyond the operations envisioned in the FAA rules. California-based Skydio recently released a drone that flies on autopilot. While the R1 has a battery life of only 16 minutes and is designed to follow a human subject (The New York Times dubbed it the “selfie drone”), it’s just one sign of how fast the technology behind drone flight has evolved.

Drones disrupt the media.

Even under the FAA’s current strict guidelines (and under much looser regulations in other parts of the world), drones have already disrupted traditional media. Soaring aerial shots of remote landscapes are no longer the province of well-funded National Geographic camera crews. TV news helicopters are giving way to drone-mounted cameras that can deliver overhead shots of crowds and events for a fraction of the price.

The leading drone manufacturer, China’s DJI, sells drones for prices starting under $400. High-end drones range up to a few thousand dollars — about what a serious photography enthusiast might pay for a top-of-the-line DSLR camera.

The accessibility of drone technology has given enterprising photographers and videographers greater ability to disrupt the industry most disrupted by technological innovation: the media. A growing number of entrepreneurs are launching sophisticated media operations on a shoestring budget, thanks to drones.

The next industry to be turned on its head by this new technology is likely to be fulfillment. That will affect every business that sells products online.

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