I got my first drone in 2014 when they were just starting to become mainstream. It was a DJI Phantom FC40. It was easy to fly and had a live video feed with a short range, but the range was plenty for me because I was too afraid to let it get any distance from me anyway.
But, it had no live telemetry, no moving map, no gimbal to smooth out the 720P video. And I lost it in a reservoir.
Although only 4 years ago, the evolution of drones has been frantic. All of the latest equipment boasts perfectly stabilized 4k video, collision avoidance, live telemetry over vast distances and a host of other features.
They can even be pre-programmed to fly a shot perfectly without the operator ever touching the sticks, and the program run in Google Earth to give a realistic simulation before leaving the house.
This morning I was the limits of a feature on my little Mavic Air. Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (or APAS for short) allows the aircraft to actively avoid obstacles in front of and behind it, literally flying around or over things instead of just stopping like the previous obstacle avoidance. It worked surprisingly well.
With all of this, things that I would never have even thought about before are suddenly within reach of almost anyone. And I hear a lot of complaining about it.
When the barrier to entry was high, people were able to charge huge sums for aerial footage. After all, their only real competition came from helicopters and planes. Not cheap options.
The people that were in early made out very nicely. But now that the equipment is available to almost everyone, suddenly they need to up their game.
One upshot is that there is a “race to the bottom” with some operators charging ridiculously low fees, often without obtaining the necessary credentials that allow them to legally do so. But, until the FAA start to enforce those rules, there seems to be little downside for them.
Most of these cheap operators are “A Dad with a drone” types that have not invested much time or effort learning the craft and, as one might expect, the results are…well, you get what you pay for.
But, some people are doing amazing things and learning all the time, and it is these ones that are forcing the incumbents to up their game.
Is this a bad thing? Personally, I don’t think so. I’m sure many people liked situation they had with a near monopoly. But now, they are going to have to differentiate themselves in other ways.
This means the ones that were holding on just because they had a piece of equipment will be driven out and replaced by those people who see this an as an opportunity to focus on their creativity. And that, in the long run, will lead to some amazing results.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what we are doing with this just a few years from now.