Drone Wars: Is DJI the evil empire and 3DR the rebels…?

Forbes put out a great article on May 25th, titled “Bow To Your Billionaire Drone Overlord: Frank Wang’s Quest To Put DJI Robots Into The Sky,” by Ryan Mac.

The article is the first western publication interview with DJI founder and CEO Frank Wang.  It is a long but fascinating read and offers many revelations about the new Phantom 3 and its rivalry with American Drone Company 3DR, which has been fueled by the fallout between DJI North America and DJI Global.

In my opinion, there are three main take-a-ways:

  1.  DJI’s growth over that last 3 years has been phenomenal going from $160M in 13′, to $500M in 14′, to an expected $1B in revenue in 15′.  Check out this video linked in the article.
  2. Wang did not attend the Phantom 3 launch in April in New York because “the product was not as perfect” as he expected.  This is a scary revelation and if you read my previous post I hope there is not a link.
  3. DJI Global had a falling out with DJI North America in 2013 and by New Year’s Day 2014, DJI G had dissolved DJI NA, fired lead Colin Guinn and all his employees.  Colin felt screwed and joined 3DR with a big chunk of his team.  3DR is the emerging American consumer drone company who is consider to be the new kid on the block with enough financial backing to take on DJI.  3DR has now been energized to avenge Guinn and his team, and defeat what I am sure they consider to be the evil empire. (Like the Facebook story, I predict this will find its way into a Hollywood movie someday)

Overall, I think the article tells a great story and well worth the read.  I give it Icon Icon Icon Icon Icon  (5 drones out of 5).  http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2015/05/06/dji-drones-frank-wang-china-billionaire/

My Take – The fact that Wang is calling the Phantom 3, not a perfect drone and missed the launch, makes me nervous.  That seems to indicate the product was rushed to market before he felt it was ready, and those situations typically end in disaster.  I hope the potential Phantom 3 failure issue discussed in my previous post is not a sign of bad things to come. (more…)

Will my new Phantom 3 randomly fall out of the sky?

This post is not an article summary but an observation I have made on the challenges DJI may be facing in bringing a new product to market (Phantom 3) perhaps at a demand rate it was not prepared for.  As you will see in my analysis below, statistically, now that drones are being produced at higher quantities, could we have 20 Phantom 3s fall out of the sky this year, with potentially no warning? It may be more likely than you think.

To be clear I am not making any claims that DJI or any other drone manufacture are having significant issues, but I understand there are significant challenges when it comes to producing items in large quantities (millions) and that even very small margins of error can have significant consequences.

It could be happening now

There is a thread on the forum PhantomPilots.com in which a pilot of a new Phantom 3 Pro discusses and shares a video on how his drone suddenly went out of control and fell out of the sky.  The thread goes on for 10 pages and can be found here http://www.phantompilots.com/threads/phantom-3-malfunction-and-crash-flight-record-video.42904/.  There is some debate on whether the issue was caused by pilot error, a collision with something, or a hardware failure.  In the end, the conclusion the group makes is the crash was the result of a motor failure and it seems like a plausible explanation.  The pilot had experienced a “Jello” affect with his video several flights before the crash that became progressively worse.  The “Jello” affect is an indication of extreme vibration or turbulent winds that the gimbal cannot compensate for.  Another pilot posted that he had a “Jello” issue and after testing his motors with a tachometer it was determined he had a bearing failure in one of his motors that has now been replaced by DJI.  If you put those two data points together it seems reasonable to believe the pilot who originally started the thread had a failing motor that eventually gave out.

The statistical analysis

This thread got me thinking about my days as an operations manager at Lockheed Martin and what I learned about Statistical Process Control in regards to manufacturing.  The goal for major manufactures who put a strong emphasis on quality or lean manufacturing is to develop processes that perform at six sigma or better.  What that means is statistically you can produce parts/features within a normal distribution that are +/- 6 standard deviations (sigma) within spec.  What that boils down to (factoring in sigma shift) is that your 6sigma process will yield a success rate of 99.99966% or 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO). Now that seems pretty good, but hypothetically, if you figure there are 12 critical components on a Phantom 3 (4 motors, 4 props, 4 electrical components) and if DJI produces say 500,000 Phantom 3 drones this year with a respectable 6sigma process, it could still create a potential for 20 (3.4 / 2 x 12 = ~20) brand new Phantom 3s to fail and fall out of the sky potentially without warning.  Although that is a relatively small number it is still scary and could lead to someone getting seriously hurt.

(more…)

Florida Drone Privacy Bill…Could Limit Growth

The Daily Business Review put out an article on May 14th titled, “Florida Drone Privacy Bill Could Limit Industry’s Growth” by Zachary D. Ludens.  (You have to register for the site but if you do, you get 5 free reads per month.)

The article discusses an amendment to the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” that allows individuals to sue people or companies they feel violated their reasonable expectation of privacy with regards to their privately owned real property with the use of drones.  The Act was originally signed to limit how law enforcement could use drones and now it has expanded to private and commercial users.  The article describes how although the law is forward thinking and means well, it could have unintended consequences and negatively impact Florida’s economy and limit the growth of the drone industry in the state.  The main concern is with the word “reasonable” and that the law leaves too much room for interpretation.  This grey area could create a scenario for messy law suits that will motivate corporations utilizing drones to stay out of Florida.  I thought the article was pretty good and if you are looking to use drones for commercial purposes, local laws are certainly something you need to be aware of.  I give it Icon Icon Icon Icon (4 drones out of 5).

http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202726463020/Florida-Drone-Privacy-Bill-Could-Limit-Industrys-Growth?slreturn=20150426095256

My Take – I understand a certain level a fear exists with the general public that drones will be used to spy on them in their backyards while they swim in their pools or whatever they do.  But laws that appear to be knee-jerk reactions to unrealized fears in my opinion, are dangerous.

(more…)

Technology revolutionizing drone industry …

Fortune issued an article on May 5th titled, “This unsexy technology is set to revolutionize the drone industry,” by Clay Dillow

The article discusses two main technologies, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (or ADS-B) and miniaturized scanning radar beam.  It is not clear but I believe the scanning radar beam he is referring to is AESA Radar or something similar because he references Fighter Jets as a platform that uses that technology.  ADS-B is important because it is technology that broadcasts a crafts GPS position both to Air Traffic Control as well as nearby aircraft with the intent of preventing collisions.  The article references the MH370 as a tragic incident that has brought this tech into the spot-light because in theory it would have allowed authorities to find the airplane.  Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar can generate 3-dimensional images or point clouds which can help drones see and avoid obstacles in 3D space.  I think Clay usually writes a good article, but I thought this one was okay.  I give it Icon Icon (2 drones out of 5) http://fortune.com/2015/05/05/drone-technology/

My Take – Clay references two important technologies, but there are others that I believe are already more widely adopted.

(more…)

Senators push new commercial UAV law…

Fortune issued an article on May 13th titled, “Could drone-filled skies soon be a reality? Senators push bill legalizing commercial drones,” by Clay Dillow.

The article discusses how Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. are pushing the Commercial UAS Modernization Act.  The article states that the Act will help expedite the process for achieving commercial certification taking some of the burden off the FAA who is bogged down processing exemptions and not working towards a final solution.  The Act provides some common sense provisions that will help companies who are focusing on R&D such as Amazon, who innovate faster than regulation can be processed.  For example, it states it could take a year to get a specific drone approved, and by the time it is approved, Amazon will have moved on to the next iteration requiring recertification.  The new Act is supposed to help alleviate this issue. Overall, I think it is an interesting article, and I give it Icon Icon Icon (3 drones out of 5).http://fortune.com/2015/05/13/drone-commercial-law/

My Take – This post is great follow up to my previous post on how we lag behind Europe with regulation, and we need to move faster.  I haven’t read the Act yet, but the effort sounds promising, and since it is being endorsed by the Consumer Electronics Association, robotics industry group AUVSI, and the Small UAV Coalition, I will trust that it at least, means well in principle.

What’s your take?

What the US can learn from Europe…

Tech Crunch put an article on their website on April 25th titled, “What The U.S. Can Learn From Europe’s Growing Commercial Drone Industry” by Michael Dahmen, who is the CEO of FLAIRICS and SPECTAIR Group.

The article discuss how we are grossly behind Europe in implementing forward thinking and business friendly drone regulation.  Europe is much further along in using drones to make industries like pipeline inspection safer and more efficient.  Overall, I think it is a good read, and I give it  Icon Icon Icon (3 drones out of 5). http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/25/what-the-u-s-can-learn-from-europes-growing-commercial-drone-industry/

My Take – As Americans, we like to believe we are the best at everything and leaders of industry. But the truth is we are sadly behind the world in implementing drone technology.  I feel this is mainly driven by some irrational/uniformed public fear and our cumbersome highly bureaucratic government. (more…)

Welcome to MyDailyDrone.com

Hello and welcome to MyDailyDrone.com.

IMG_3014

My name is Patrick J. Walsh, I am an entrepreneur and drone enthusiast. As the world is starting to see, the commercial UAV or “drone” industry is quickly evolving and taking off like a rocket ship and I want to be along for the ride. I created this blog to both summarize and provide my take on the latest news relating to the drone industry. The goal was to create a meaningful dialogue on the latest drone developments, get involved with the community, and enhance my expertise in the space.

I am married to my childhood sweetheart and we have 3 young kids whose lives I am sure will be greatly impacted by drone technology. I grew up in Western New York, I had a passion for aerospace at an early age, and I attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to become an engineer. There I achieved both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Aerospace / Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation, I was hired by Lockheed Martin and was fortunate enough to spend the first decade of my career at our nation’s top defense company. My journey started in operations management and then transitioned into business development. I mainly specialized on electro-optical infrared targeting systems and advanced sensors. During my time there, I was able to leverage a great leadership development program that afforded me the opportunity to earn an MBA, which I achieved from Crummer Business School at Rollins College.

I moved on from Lockheed to pursue my entrepreneurial aspirations and today, I am a Managing Partner for a boutique form of private equity called a Search Fund. My business partner and I are investor backed entrepreneurs looking to acquire a great small to mid-sized business that aligns with our passions. We are actively searching for companies that are either in, adjacent to, or pivoting towards the drone industry. Please visit our website, www.lakeside-mp.com to learn more and if you know of a company that could be a great fit, please let us know. For more information on my professional background, please visit my LinkedIn profile.

I am also a novice Drone Pilot. I received my first drone for Christmas 2014 (thanks Mom & Dad!), a DJI Phantom FC40, and it was great. It was the perfect first drone for me, I was able to hone my piloting skills, and it cemented my passion for the drone world. I recently ordered the new Phantom 3 Advanced, it should be a huge upgrade, and I can’t wait to get it!  I will be sure to share my thoughts and hopefully some great photos as soon as I can get it in the air.

I hope you enjoy my Blog and I look forward to your comments and feedback!

Best,

Patrick

Flying Drone