November 3, 2015 By FTI Consulting
The FTI tech strategic communications team has been weighing in frequently on a topic near and dear both to us and many clients: drones, or, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS’). As the hyperlink in the prior sentence should clarify, we’re not focused on the military ones that first drove UAS’ to prominence and still dominate headlines. Instead, we increasingly peer toward more commercial, if still not quite friendly, skies. Why?
Early in the morning of January 26, 2015, a small recreational drone crashed onto the lawn of the U.S. White House. A sharp surge in social and traditional media attention resulted – nearly 400 major press stories, 75,000 tweets and 115,000 related YouTube videos appeared nearly overnight.
More surprising to those familiar with UAS’ was what went mostly unreported in all this noise:
The White House drone event illustrates massive gaps between UAS use; regulation; private sector policy; and reputation management. For several years, many drone operators and manufacturers have privately claimed such gaps represent an advantage, more than a risk.
In FTI’s view, the increasing visibility of drone mishaps and assertiveness of the FAA – vs. enthusiasm for the business potential of drone use – upends this risk calculus.
Yet, the fact remains that drones can deliver huge cost advantages to infrastructure construction and monitoring, disaster relief, agricultural applications, and environmental surveys. In short, UAS-related business opportunity remains huge.
This contrast – between the potential drones represent, the way most Drone-Related Businesses (DRB’s) operate, and regulation as well as market anxiety and uninformed-ness – offers a rich vein for commentary. It’s also an area under-populated by non-specialist voices like ours that look not just at the underlying technology, but also comment, approachably, on policy, investment and opinion.
Our goal? To further clarify a real operating framework for DRB’s. So stay tuned. Look up. And stay classy.