Disruptive Technology Part 4: Drones + Robotics

This is part four of a five part series on disruptive technology. You can read Part 1 on IoT here and Part 2 on AI here. Part 3 on Big Data is here. Disruptive technology is technology that pushes the boundaries of an industry, dramatically changing how we live or how things are made or done. The term disruptive innovation comes from the book The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen (1997). Many, many people have written tons of examples that are old-school: hard-drives/floppy disks, monitors/flatscreens, and so on. This series is about new technologies (at least new in 2017/2018) that are disrupting the world today.

Drones and Robotics

Is there a difference between a drone and robotics?  Not really, a drone is a kind of robot.  Most people think of flying drones when they think of drones, but other kinds of drones can walk, crawl and even swim.  So what is happening here?  Why the explosion of “drone” companies, an what do we mean by that?

When people say “Drones” there are several things that they probably mean.

  1. Remote Controlled Flying Drones with Cameras – these consumer products have become cheap and ubiquitous. They are essentially what it sounds like, flying toys.  However, when the flying toys have a Camera, some real “business purposes” can be had:
    1. Mapping Terrain
    2. Surveys
    3. Cinema
    4. Vanity Photography – Land Photography
    5. Research (think tracking wildlife)
    6. Police/Fire/Rescue (think finding people, spotting fires, etc).
  2. Automated Drones with Cameras – sometimes people think about “Drones” delivering mail or groceries… (this will probably happen in our lifetime).
    1. What’s different here is that the drones do NOT have a human controller, and instead are flying based on 2 other technologies:
      1. GPS – ability to know where they are to high precision.
      2. CV – Computer Vision – A form of AI where a drone knows, for example, not to crash into buildings or people.
  3. Drones/Robots for Manufacturing – this is not new, per say, but the decreasing cost of parts, the shrinking of parts, and the increase in computing power are continuing to make Robotics for manufacturing a viable option.
    1. Micro-robotics is set to also make manufacturing breakthroughs.
  4. Home Robotics – this area is in infancy, but Roomba and other cleaning bots are exploding. Pool cleaning robots are becoming mainstream, and will continue to do so.
  5. SO MUCH MORE!  Robotics are invading every industry: from sex toys to industrial pipe inspection, the application of robotics are endless and seemingly going to continue to increase; disrupting many industries.

Why do businesses care?

Businesses should care about drones and robotics for the obvious reasons:

  1. Opportunities to reduce costs – automation, manufacturing, delivery, warehouse, etc.
  2. Opportunities to create new products
  3. Potential for disruption.
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