Rise of the Drones: How They’ll Impact SMEs and the Future Business Landscape

Once only used for military purposes, drones have now become a part of civilian life overnight. Everyone, including small and medium size business owners are rushing to save their money and get their hands on their own flying robot.

Drone for aerial photography

With all that said, drones aren’t without many potential faults, particularly since they still represent a relatively new and untested technology. Mistakes can and will be made.

FAA Holding Out Until Recently

The biggest holdout in North America until now has been the Federal Aviation Administration. This organization, and others throughout Europe, are now inking and refining plans for safe civilian and commercial use of drones.

However, the FAA in particular has been drafting their plans for the last few years, with no clear answer as to when firm regulations will be in place. This, despite mounting pressure from billion-dollar global corporations like Amazon, who want to use the technology to improve their logistics and provide a level of customer service that will change the face of retail forever.

Despite an unclear future, let’s examine the potential benefits drone technology can offer SMEs:

1. Content creation benefits for everyone

Anyone who’s ever seen the movie Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal knows just how nitty gritty and cutthroat getting late-breaking stories can be in the world of journalism. Beyond the benefits drones can offer that industry, businesses will be able to use this technology to access areas where some of the juiciest content lies, even the most dangerous locations on the planet.

Post 2005, distributing great content couldn’t be any easier. The big issue is getting where the action is before everyone else does. Or simply getting to the action in general.

But those are no longer an issue.

Take aerial photography for example. Taking aerial shots of an erupting volcano, or sharing live footage of an outdoor event your company is hosting will soon be as simple as programming and deploying the company drone!

2. Less danger for your employees

There are hundreds of potential examples of extremely dangerous work that can be performed by a drone, saving countless lives in the process. Charitable organizations can send relief packages to disaster-ridden or otherwise dangerous locations without risking lives. And tasks normally reserved for only the bravest of workers can be easily handled by a drone and its pilot, with much less potential for injury or death.

A good example is when it comes to telecommunications and electric towers. You know, those super tall towers that move everything needed for the digital experience wherever it needs to go? Many in this industry are already voicing joy over the fact they no longer have to send human employees up these gargantuan structures to inspect working parts for damage.

3. Faster product delivery

Look at the waves Amazon Prime Air has been making over the last couple of years. Going to the extreme of testing their potential drone delivery service in the United Kingdom to avoid strict FAA regulations in its home country.

Amazon PrimeAir drone

photo credit: Amazon.com

Why wait days, potentially weeks, for companies like UPS, FedEx, USPS and Canada Post to deliver your packages, when Bezos and company believe they can get all packages weighing less than 5 pounds to the customer within 30 minutes of ordering? I don’t have to tell you the impact this would have on the food service industry (eg., no more complaining about cold pizza or chinese food, right?)

Consider the potential for your own business. Even if you can’t afford to have a fleet of drones at the ready across the world, the aforementioned carriers – or someone else entirely – will certainly have a bevy of drones available near every major fulfillment center in North America, Europe, and Asia. And surely they’ll be able to get that freight to your customers within minutes and hours, instead of days and weeks.

Unfortunately, there are still a number of years-old government and social issues to iron out before this kind of thing ever “gets off the ground.”

4. Marketing advantage

The Kyosho Neon Messenger was developed a few years ago. As you can see in the video below, the marketing potential is HUGE. Imagine being able to serve up ads for your storefront business in high traffic locations where people hungry for your products are located – rather than relying on expensive radio, print and Internet ads?

The possibilities are endless. Use drone real estate photography to market a housing or construction project to investors. Coax more business into your restaurant by serving up your lunch time ads to construction workers who’ve been working up an appetite all morning. Tell people how they can snag a deal on their favorite electronics and clothing items if they can get to your store in the next two hours. There’s so much that can be done with this technology, if the proper safety precautions are put in place.

Closing: The promise of innovation

The potential for innovation across the board is what should really get you and your competitors salivating uncontrollably. There’s no limit to what companies can do with this technology, once the floodgates open.

Innovation may come quickly, as the FAA recently allowed for non-hobbyist operation of drones for commercial purposes this past august. These changes allow for what regulators in Australia, the UK, France and Sweden had already allowed businesses in their respective countries to do.

Once firm regulations are in place, and businesses are allowed to deploy drones for purposes of all kinds, there’s not really any way to predict what the drone landscape will look like in 5 or 10 years.

Consider how far the Internet has come in just the last few years, or the computer technology that controls it. Drones are definitely here to stay. However, their future is as yet, still largely unknown.

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