Why It’s Time to Consider Drones

*NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SCN Blog. It was a recap of a recent event in Buffalo, NY where AV Distributor Stampede Presentation Products gave their annual report. You can view the article on the original website here.

Stampede Presentation Products held its annual Vendor Summit on October 5 and 6, 2015 in Buffalo, NY, and without competition, there was one element on their agenda that stood out: drones. And there’s a good reason for this—of the listings of Stampede’s top categories this year, drones came first, followed by touch displays, unified communications, audio, hospitality, signage, and security.

So it’s not really a surprise that Stampede would invest so much of its agenda to drones—they’ve been pushing this technology for some time now, with vendors participating in the distributor’s Big Book of AV tour stops around the country and putting up a Drone Pavilion at InfoComm this past June, complete with a caged demo area to show these flying machines in action.

Of course, there is still a lot of skepticism about the relationship between drones and AV. While I was live tweeting the event on Tuesday, conversations were starting up about why integrators are doubtful to invest in drones, citing that the technology offers ‘limited’ uses. I myself was even hesitant to embrace this new technology at first, but the more I hear about the benefits and the connection to AV, the more open I am to it. I think the key is to look beyond the hype we read about drones in the media, and think of the practical solutions drones offer and how AV can have a hand in that—a point that was heavily emphasized during the presentations.

Kevin Kelly, president and COO at Stampede, said the prediction is that drones will become a nearly $100 billion opportunity, and that AV can play a big part in this growth. With over 10,000 possible applications for drones, Kelly said that when it comes to drones, we need to see AV as a piece in the big picture. “Stop thinking of a drone as an end all, be all product, but as a platform to hold a camera,” he said. “And cameras are a big part of our industry.”

Kelly said that beyond military purposes, 29 percent of drones are used for other reasons, including filming at events, safety surveillance, and more. Mounting your camera to a drone, as well as providing command and control solutions, are important to the user, and Kelly emphasized that these are areas where AV companies excel and can help provide solutions specific for drones.

Stampede isn’t making a push for AV in drones just because it seems ‘cool’ though—as the data shows, the drone industry is growing exponentially, and it’s not stopping. Thomas Frey, a futurist with The DaVinci Institute, spoke to summit attendees about the future of drones, saying that future uses may include delivery, wildlife tracking, and more. A big use for drones will include helping firefighters battle wildfires by attaching sensors to the drones to pinpoint where the firefighters need to go to extinguish the flames faster.

Frey also reminded us that drones don’t just fly—they can roll, walk, climb, swim—you name it. Essentially, our future will finally involve the robotic droids that George Lucas created in Star Wars—I’ve waited a long time for this to happen.

Representatives from the Cleveland Research Company gave a more detailed account of where the drone industry is headed—“There’s two main things we want you to know: professionals in the drone industry want a complete solution, and the market is in early stages and accelerating,” said Josh Rowe, market research associate with the Cleveland Research Company.

Rowe said that right now, drone sales are at a 100 percent increase from last year, and will continue to rise until the industry hits critical mass. In 2015 alone, the industry has already sold 2.5 million units. They predict that by 2017, drones will be a far more prominent industry, so the focus for 2016 will be to educate interested users. This means that this is the best time for AV companies to get involved.

“People need to get a drone IoT solution together,” commented Rowe. “What you’ll need is software, cloud video storage, vertical specific software (mapping, measuring, video analysis, facial recognition), along with services for insurance, drone management, deployment, education, support.”

The event closed out with a Q&A panel of drone experts, including Rowe; Ted Ellet, partner, Hogan Lovells; Greg Frasca, president, SkyWeb Media; Vincent Cowie, president and CEO, G2 Digital Solutions; and Gene Payson, president, Troy Built Models, who offered a more detailed look at specific concerns regarding adopting drones into AV solutions.

Projecting Change

Pedestrians photograph a leopard projected on the Empire State Building as part of the “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” project.

Pedestrians photograph a leopard projected on the Empire State Building as part of the “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building” project.

By Kelleigh Welch

*Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of Systems Contractor News.

New York City’s skyline received an environmental makeover on August 1 with an animated display of the world’s most endangered animals projected onto 33 floors of the Empire State Building. This show, titled “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building,” uses images of endangered species, including manta rays, birds, reptiles, lions, and a gorilla that “climbed” to the top of the building, as a way to spread awareness about our role in protecting these animals and to promote the upcoming documentary, “Racing Extinction,” by the Oceanic Preservation Society.

“The story we were trying to tell was something that no one really knows, and it’s that we’ve had five mass extinctions (in the Earth’s history). Now we’re rolling into a sixth, and man is the cause,” explained Travis Threlkel, chief creative officer with Obscura Digital, the design firm tapped for the project. The entire project was a collaboration between Threlkel and Oscar winning filmmaker and photographer, and executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, Louie Psihoyos.

Twenty-six Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors were used for the “Projecting Change” display in New York City.

Twenty-six Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors were used for the “Projecting Change” display in New York City.

Projecting Change occurred in three parts, starting first with a mobile Tesla car that projected video, followed by a projection project on the United Nations building in New York City for Climate Week back in 2014. The grand finale was to project these animals onto a high profile structure—the Empire State Building. Threlkel said it took Obscura and the Oceanic Preservation Society nearly four years to get everything together for the event, working with the Empire State Building and the New York City government to secure all the permits to make this happen. On August 1, 2015, these efforts became a success as images of endangered species were projected onto the Empire State Building from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The display measured 375 feet high and 186 feet wide, projected onto the iconic skyscraper using 26 Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors, provided by Nationwide Video. Obscura built weatherized steel turrets to hold the projectors, and used their own custom blending software.

“Really our challenges were with the scale and the building and surface material,” Threlkel said. “We weren’t sure how the materials would react, but luckily it worked a little better than we thought.” Threlkel was referring to projecting onto a building with so many windows, many of which would still be lit during the event, along with competing with lights in Midtown Manhattan. He said they were expecting the images to be dim, but luckily the final images were much brighter than they expected.

“Our goal was to capture people’s attention,” Threlkel said. “That’s why we targeted something as big as the Empire State Building—it’s iconic and it would help create as much dialog as possible.”

The original print page for the article.

The original print page for the article.