Drones are part of the Internet of Things, drone maker says

The head of drone-make 3DR recently discussed the drone's role as a sensor. He was speaking at the InterDrone convention.

Drones becoming part of the internet of things IoT

We can thank a guy named Todd Harper, who managed to successfully capture foot-cam videos of 3D Robotics' chief Chris Anderson giving the keynote speech at the InterDrone show earlier this month and put them on YouTube (Parts One and Two). 

InterDrone is a conference and drone expo. 3D Robotics, or 3DR as it's sometimes called, is major drone maker, with some of its funding from Qualcomm.

I've written about Qualcomm's recent drone chip development in "Intel, Qualcomm getting into drones."


I say foot-cam because the image was captured from what appears to be the inside of Harper's bag, at his feet, in the front row of the auditorium.

Muffled by the bag, but nevertheless poignant, Anderson, a former Wired editor, made some good remarks.

'Unattended sensors'

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones as we often call them, should be thought of as "unattended sensors," Anderson says.

They are sensors connected to the Internet that pass data to the cloud. Ultimately, you can "almost forget about the device," he said.

"They are part of the Internet of Things," he said.


Smartphones are what made drones possible, Anderson said.

It was investment by the "Apples, Googles, and Samsungs," and others, that created the ARM core processors, GPS sensors, and batteries being used in drones, Anderson said.

In fact, Anderson says, his company and DJI, another drone maker, are now "migrating almost all of the functions" for drone controls to the smartphone.

Anderson thinks that this movement to smartphones means the cloud will also be a progression.

"Once you're connected to the smartphone, you're also connected to the cloud," he said.

So, these devices can be constructed as connected devices "from the start." The cloud will be built in.

"Forget about the drone and think about the data," he said.


Anderson is bullish as to drones' function as remote sensors compared to satellites. He says drones are better because they scale better.

"We're going to see drones dominate remote sensing, not satellites," he says.

An example he gave was in image capturing.

"Two-thirds of the planet is under cloud at any one time," he said. "That means satellites can't see two-thirds of the planet."

Drones operate below the clouds. If you want to get consistent shots over a period, drones are the way to go, he thinks.


But it was satellites, introduced in the 1970s, that first allowed people to see their planet as a whole, Anderson said.

A result of that, is that people began to become aware of the planet as a whole, rather than just their localized area, he explained. Awareness of global warming and so on followed.

"This is a moment where we have a new way to sense our planet," Anderson says in his speech of drones coming of age.

Media has been transformed by the Internet too, Anderson points out. That's because the Internet has put powerful tools into the hands of the people. Drones, he says, will do the same thing. 

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