Drones are Taking Flight Indoors

Prior to Verity Studios, I co-founded a company which was later sold to Amazon and rebranded as Amazon Robotics. When Mick Mountz first came up with the idea of using mobile robots to manage inventory, he needed a way to bring that concept to life. Once he laid out the business challenge, Peter Wurman and I were able to solve the problem using a completely new application of robotics technologies, and Kiva Systems was born. It was an important ‘aha’ moment that has helped Amazon completely transform its distribution processes and dramatically accelerate the movement of goods across the supply chain. I have no doubt that drones will deliver equally transformative surprises.

I’ve learned from experience that it’s nearly impossible to predict how and where new technologies will be applied in the future. The challenge with technology, always, is that it requires a path to reach its potential. Those among the first to perceive that path often drive the trajectory and, ultimately, reap the financial rewards. For investors, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the commercialization of drone technology is still in its early stages. Yes, it is developing rapidly, but the landscape and the players are likely to evolve as quickly as the drones themselves.

Your best bet: invest in the core technologies that support the drone revolution. Sensing. Computing. Processing & AI. Integration. Companies that deliver on the promise of drones—in whatever capacity—will put every one of these technologies in high demand. Drones are taking flight. It’s up to investors to support and profit from that trajectory.

About the Author

Raffaello D’Andrea, PhD, is Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich, and founder of Verity Studios, a company developing a new breed of interactive and autonomous flying machines. He also co-founded Kiva Systems (now operating as Amazon Robotics), the robotics company that revolutionized material handling by deploying thousands of autonomous mobile robots in warehouses.

Raffaello served as the faculty advisor and system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team, four-time world champions at the international RoboCup competition. He is also a new media artist with exhibitions at various international venues, including the Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica, and the FRAC Centre. Recent awards include the IEEE Robotics and Automation Award and the Engelberger Robotics Award, two of the highest achievements in the field.

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