My First Year as Chief Drone Officer

A year ago, I joined Firmatek as the industry’s first Chief Drone Officer. The following are my perspectives on the drone space, a look back on an amazing year, and a glimpse at the exciting things to come. I’ll start with what many in the drone industry would consider a bombshell and blasphemous, especially coming from a CDO. I said it over a year ago, and I’m still saying it now, only with greater conviction: “It’s not about the drone!” It’s about a lot more than that. It’s about analytics that provide insights and solving customers problems.  It’s also about an ecosystem made up of many great innovators and companies working together in many aspects of this space that includes drones. As a member of that ecosystem, Firmatek brings drone technology to bear as part of solutions that deliver actionable results, insights, productivity, and safety.

My Reflections on the Drone Space

Wow, too many innovations in 2017 to list here. There’s more to come in 2018 as momentum of the self-driving car revolution continues to fuel the development of underlying technology used in drones, as well as other precision measurement tech used in the geospatial industry. These are very exciting times indeed!

The end of 2017, which marked a full year of FAA Part 107 regulations, was met with an unprecedented number of waiver requests. This is driving the need for a more automated and streamlined waiver approval process, like the LAANC Program that is scheduled to be fully implemented in 2018. Simplified regulatory processes will only continue to drive innovation and adoption of drones.

My Commercial Industry Perspectives

In 2017, many of our customers and the industries that we serve responded with enthusiasm by doubling down on drone tech. However, many burned by false promises and inflated claims, in a phenomenon Gartner calls the Trough of Disillusionment, turned to Firmatek as their trusted advisor.  They took a “pause & reset” on drone tech.  Gartner’s Tech Hype Cycle gives us some insight into where we are in the cycle. It points out a course correction occurs over time, where hype gets replaced by facts, common sense, hard work, testing, education, and tweaking of business models. This eventually leads to the Slope of Enlightenment and a level of tangible and objective productivity. I am proud to be part of the team at Firmatek that helped many clients rebound and overcome these challenging stages, resulting in significant growth for our drone solutions business.

My Reflections on Firmatek’s Place in the Industry

I am confident that mining, aggregates, and stockpile industries will continue to deploy drone solutions into 2018 and beyond. Surprisingly, as drone adoption increased throughout 2017, we didn’t see a wholesale displacement of LiDAR. In fact, we saw continued use of both technologies depending on a client’s needs, preferences, and other factors. As such, using the right tool for the right job continues to be a core principle at Firmatek.

In 2017, Firmatek concluded that drones have become so automated and sophisticated, yet so simple, that our clients could be easily taught to fly and collect data. Because clients fly their own drones, they have the  freedom to fly whenever and as often as they like. We found that this dramatically increases the frequency of flights and measurements. This increased frequency was the ah-ha moment that made it possible to develop an effective inventory management solution, which focuses on the analysis of data. The data just  happened to be collected by drones. As such, I concluded that Firmatek is very good at analyzing data, and that this should be our primary focus. The  analysis and insights is the part that our clients truly value. The analytics and knowledgeable people who speak the clients’ language are the keys that help us solve our customer’s problems. This is why we are trusted advisors; this is why clients keep coming back.

It’s not about the drone!

Andrew Maximow is Firmatek’s Chief Drone Officer. He’s recognized as a leader in the industry. You can find an interview with Guinn Partners’ ebook on the state of the drone industry. Read it here.