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The Drone Economy is Right Now

220px-Arduino_Uno_-_R3There is talk in some circles about the Drone Economy (as compared to, say, the Information Economy that we have now in the US). I suspect however that, more or less, most people just aren’t aware of the complete revolution that is happening right now.

Before digging into that though, let’s chat about the Information Economy. Computers and information management reached a tipping point in the 60’s and 70’s when digital computing became economical for the Average Joe (or Jane). In the 70’s and early 80’s especially, there was an explosion in the home market, with the release of kits such as the VIC-20.

Now, let’s define “economical for the Average Joe”. In reality, this was really “economical for the tinkerer and for business users”. Two different markets, but the tinkerer often drives the adoption of technology in business.

What happened is that the market was flooded with transistor-based computing via Texas Instruments and Intel and people began building hobby systems in their garage and then ultimately finding ways to turn this hobby into little companies we know today like Apple.

The Information Economy started in garages. Let’s be clear on that.

So now there is talk about the Drone Economy. In your mind, you are probably picturing military drones flying over far-flung nations. Well, maybe, a little, but not really.

The drone economy is being built in the garage using the $35 Raspberry Pi and a $40 Arduino. This is not break-the-bank equipment. The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that can run Linux, has multiple I/O ports include HDMI and USB, Wi-Fi, and a reasonable CPU and RAM. In other words, take a computer from 3 years ago [edit: 10 years ago], condense it into a size that almost fits into your wallet, and you have a Raspberry Pi. For $35.

The Arduino lets you hook up various interactive sensors and objects, e.g., a camera and a robot arm, and control them. An Arduino kit, fully stocked with goodies, will run you around $100. An Arduino by itself is a lot less.

So, with the Pi, you can build a brain. With the Arduino, you can build a body.

Put these together, and a hobbyist can spend a few hundred dollars and build, say, a robot that can play air hockey against his daughter.

Just fun and games, right?

Not quite. With this technology, and a few hundred dollars, a hard-working geek can build an intelligent robot to do many things around your house, in your car, at your office, or, with a little more money, in the air.

Remind you of the 70’s and 80’s with home computer hobbyist connecting wires so they could write a Pong-like computer game for their kids? Now think about the sheer depth and impact of the Information Economy, not only in business but also our everyday lives.

The Drone Economy is next.

Questions for you:

  • What other devices like the Pi and Arduino are available?
  • Have you read about the Pi and Arduino or is it still “hobbyist culture” to you?
  • Where can devices like this be used, e.g., your car, your home alarm, your filing cabinet?

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