The drone industry is on the rise. In a recent publication on the impact of UAVs in the U.S., the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) reports that within 3 years of commercial drones being integrated into the American airspace system, the up-and-coming industry will create more than 70,000 new jobs and total more than $13.6 billion.
So, who will be leading the charge? We have identified some thought-leaders and innovators in the areas of business, politics, media, and the law. These 8 are among the most influential people in drones.
The visionary business leader wants to deliver packages to your door via a drone meaning the commercial use for drones is about to explode in a huge, huge way. Bezos has engaged with lobbyists to sway the FAA to help turn this sci-fi dream of Amazon Prime Air into a reality. By announcing his dream of drone home delivery, Bezos woke up millions of Americans to the possibilities, leaving many to ask what is a drone anyways.
CEO, Hexoplus (Squadrone Systems)
When Xavier de la Rue, extreme snowboarder and movie maker, became frustrated with the inability to easily and affordably get aerial footage of remote mountain locations, he approached Level and his team. Together, they dreamt up a drone that will follow you wherever you go. The Hexo+ is poised to create a new commercial market for drones. If their Kickstarter campaign is any indication – approximately $1 million raised as of this writing – the masses are clamoring for the Hexo+.
- Twitter: @hexopluslive
Founder & CTO, 3D Robotics
Jordi built his first drone using parts from a Nintendo Wii. In 2008, the then-20 year old caught the attention of Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, with his work on stabilizing the flight of a remote controlled helicopter. The two met through the DIY Drones online community and Chris funded Jordi with $500. Chris continued to advise Jordi’s production efforts over email, and in 2009 the two co-founded 3D Robotics. In 2012, Chris quit Wired to join Jordi full time as CEO of 3D Robotics. Today they sell UAVs for $750 that are used across many fields.
- Twitter: @3drobotics
The CEO of GoPro has to have his eyes on the disruptive power of drones. He’s already mastered putting HD video into the hands of extreme sports fanatics everywhere. Throw in unmanned aerial vehicles that have GoPro cameras mounted to them? The possibilities just exploded exponentially. Wouldn’t be surprising to see Woodman use GoPro’s IPO this year to invest some of that capital into the drone side of the business. Is an acquisition of a drone manufacturer in the cards? GoPro and Woodman are definitely on our watch list this year.
Administrator, Federal Aviation Agency
Michael Huerta is the face of the organization that will ultimately decide the fate of commercial UAVs in the United States. With private companies such as Amazon pushing for business use, the FAA is under significant pressure to approve the use of commercial drones.
The US Congress has decreed that the FAA put together a plan for boosting the use of drones in the U.S. by 2015, though some are skeptical they can achieve this deadline. The FAA is planning to test the interaction between drones and other types of airplanes at six locations across the nation. Meanwhile, the agency has shut down drone operations that were being attempted by other private enterprises such as an Internet beer company and the Washington Nationals MLB team.
Special Counsel, Kramer Levin
Brendan Schulman is the lawyer who took on the first ever FAA case against a drone — and won. It helps that Schulman is a model aircraft hobbyist himself, so when he argues a case against the FAA or defends drone enthusiasts, he knows what he’s talking about. And he talks about drones often, whether in his cases, on his Twitter feed (@dronelaws), or in myriad interviews about the latest drone issues.
Below, we’re attaching a short interview with Schulman where he discusses the original case in layman terms.
Gregory McNeal’s expertise and regular contributions to the media make him as influential a pundit that the drone industry has.
He is an expert in national security law, criminal law and procedure, and international law. Previously served as assistant director of the Institute for Global Security, McNeal has testified before Congress about drones, surveillance, and counterterrorism, and has aided members of Congress and their committees in drafting legislation, advised the Iraqi High Tribunal, and supervised a U.S. Department of Justice counterterrorism program. His writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Times, and The Baltimore Sun, and he has appeared on Fox News Channel, NPR, BBC, C-SPAN, CNN and other national media outlets as an expert commentator. He is a regular FORBES contributor where he frequently writes about drones, law and public policy. His expert
- Twitter: @gregorymcneal
Editor, Drone Law Journal
Peter Sachs will tell you he’s many things. An attorney, a licensed private investigator, a photographer, a member of a volunteer fire department, an FAA-licensed commercial helicopter pilot and advanced ground instructor, a long-time R/C model aircraft “drone” pilot, Sachs is well-positioned to take a stand. And he does…often.
A vocal critic of the FAA’s claim of having any authority over drone operations, Sachs has been telling anyone that will listen that flyers in the U.S. have every legal right to operate a drone for pleasure or for profit.
- Twitter: @thedroneguy
Whether the names listed above will change the world as we know it remains to be seen. They are clearly poised to give drones meaning and make them commercially viable options that will change our world.
Agree or disagree? Who did we miss? Put your thoughts in the comments below.