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Drones: Just Buzz or Real Business?

- September 10, 2015 - 6 Comments

“Why Cisco?” I was asked repeatedly after speaking on a panel about drones. “Why not Cisco?” was my passionate response.

Drone 1The occasion was the recent NASA UTM Convention at Silicon Valley’s historic Moffett Field to explore creative traffic management solutions for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), popularly known as drones. At Cisco, we see a full spectrum of public, enterprise and consumer opportunities, as well as an amazing ecosystem of partners evolving around “connected” drones. This isn’t just buzz, but a real business opportunity.

After all, drones capture and transmit “ungodly amounts of data,” as Cisco’s Helder Antunes noted during his keynote session and CNBC interview. Cisco’s network backbone, solutions and applications enable the Internet of Everything (IoE) – the connection of people, processes, data and things – and drones represent important, mobile, data-rich nodes on the network. Please also read Helder’s blog on drones and the IoE here.

drone 2When it comes to drones and many other remotely connected and mobile devices, it’s really all about Collaboration, Cloud, Fog Computing – and Analytics, whether at the edge, across the network or in the cloud. To seamlessly transform raw data from sensors and images into actionable insights, an end-to-end platform is needed to optimally capture, store, share and process data most anywhere.

For example, one of the biggest challenges for drone operations today is to efficiently collect and effectively transfer colossal amounts of data over weak or non-existent network links in remote areas. Many times, these processes take days or weeks before the collected data can be processed and meaningful insights can be derived.

High-value crops such as grapes may suffer significant business losses due to such time-lagged decisions. Again, what’s needed is the connection to a reliable, high-speed platform. Cisco’s hardware and software technologies enable virtually real-time decision making without experts having to physically download and tackle the data deluge challenge on-site.

drone 3

Precision Agriculture, Safety & Security and Field Asset Inspection are some verticals that could immensely benefit by leveraging unmanned aircrafts due to their unique abilities to navigate in complex remote environments.

At the NASA event, Angelo Fienga of Cisco Italy and I demonstrated an interesting use case of how one can utilize Cisco’s collaboration infrastructure to unleash “remote expert” capabilities using drones. We successfully exhibited that by relaying the live camera feed of the drone over to WebEx and TelePresence infrastructure, allowing an agronomist thousands of miles away across the globe to precisely observe, guide and control data collection operation in the field.

drone 4

So all this and more is why “Cisco and drones” make a lot of sense. I’m excited about the possibilities here, and will share some more ideas during my keynote address at the upcoming InterDrone conference in Las Vegas from Sep 9-11, 2015.  I hope to see you there.

Meantime, what applications do you think are better suited for a drone business?

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6 Comments

  1. It is unfortunate that lawmakers wait for big disasters to happen before they can move, as we are seeing with gun control. Hopefully, drones would have a better storyline with respect to regulations.

  2. Right on the mark @Rakesh. In fact there are tons of discussions happening on the safety and security front. Both NASA and FAA along with other regulatory and business entities have initiated a couple of efforts to propose regulatory and compliance guidelines bringing in safety and security to residents of US. Other countries are hoping to follow suite. People are highly skeptical of positive value of drones amid spreading videos showing guns mounted on drones etc. Great observations! Thank for sharing your thoughts.

    • We now have our first confirmed collision between a consumer UAV and a manned aircraft. This was totally predictable and until the technology community developing these drones (and the pilots who fly them) own up to their responsibility, this sort of hazard is only going to increase. http://theaviationist.com/2015/10/07/polish-f-16-collided-with-drone/

  3. Notice the lack of any discussion of drone safety and security - typical of a technology early in the 'hype' lifecycle. We must consider the negative impact that drones could have and work to mitigate them before they become real challenges for society. Malware that affects drones... drones that interfere with manned aircraft and other flying things... where is the innovation to ensure that drones become a true benefit to society, and not just another attack surface in the Internet of Things?

    Sophisticated traffic management using a matrix of drones to monitor traffic in key areas. Also, investors could extrapolate on gleaning market insights from satellite data to using drones more immediate and focused data in the same vein.

    • Matrix of Drones is definitely one of the key ideas of managing drone traffic. Satellite data is somewhat limiting though - based on anecdotal evidence, only 33% of earth's surface is visible on average through satellites due to clouds, smoke etc. Satellite data might be useful as an additional source of input, not an exclusive one though. Great thoughts - keep them flowing!