THESE ARE THE DRONES YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. One of the most impressive commercial drones of 2015 makes its debut in what might be one of the most impressive drone markets of the future
Drones are becoming increasingly popular among photographers and videographers as a relatively easy and cost-effective way to create stunning panning shots and dramatic bird’s eye footage. Of course, casual users also abound. But the gap between these casual pilots and their professional counterparts is closing fast, as drones become increasingly affordable, and interest for the technology increases.
So, when 3DRobotics, the largest personal drone company in North America, partnered up with Halo Robotics to bring Solo—the world’s first smart drone—to Indonesia at the end of 2015, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“Indonesians are very savvy, they’re always looking for the latest technology, looking for brand names, looking for the best that there is”
The Solo, launched April 2015 in the U.S., already has quite a reputation among drone enthusiasts and serious gadget bugs. It is called a “smart drone” due to its range of automated features powered by two onboard computers. As demonstrated during the Solo’s launch event on October 14 at Electronic City, Jakarta, the Solo can literally take off and land at the press of a button, while a range of intuitive Smart Shots allows the drone to orbit a spot, follow a virtual cable or simply follow the user who can focus on creating videos from his smart device mounted on the Solo’s ergonomic remote control. Furthermore, the drone also features wireless video streaming from the drone’s GoPro camera. In short, Solo users can create incredible cinematic footages without the hassle of trying to pilot the drone and control the camera at the same time. And this opens up the world of drone videography to a whole new range of customers.
“For the consumer sector, you really have what we could call the Pros, Bros and Joes,” said Eli Moselle, Halo Robotics’ director. “You have Pros who have already known very much about all kinds of video technology including drones; you have the Bros who are into gadgets and technology, and who have some exposure but might not have actually bought a drone before; but then you also have the Joes, the everyday guys, the everyday users.”
Certainly, there is a mass appeal to this kind of technology, especially in Indonesia. “Indonesians are very savvy,” Annemarie Kraan, Halo Robotics’ finance director pointed out, “they’re always looking for the latest technology, looking for brand names, looking for the best that there is.” And more importantly, both 3DR and Halo Robotics are doing more than just selling drones. “We’re engaging and educating the community as well,” Kraan continued. “We’re running meet-ups and workshops on how to properly operate a drone, partnering with, for example, the APDI, Asosiasi Pilot Drone Indonesia. By doing that we’re keeping 3DR at a higher standard than the average buy-and-sell model. We’re really putting the effort to educate and engage the community.”
Beyond consumer use, the Solo also holds massive potential for commercial, environmental and even humanitarian applications. “In terms of commercial applications, the biggest three sources of demand that we find here in Indonesia come from oil and gas, mining and plantations,” Moselle elaborated. “There is also something that we’re really excited about, which is the UN REDD+ [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] program.”
Even more exciting is the way 3DR has designed Solo to play a much bigger role in the future. Colin Guinn, 3DR’s CRO, explained: “We designed the Solo with the intelligence that would allow it to really expand a lot over time, and we absolutely have plans for Solo to be a really fantastic tool for commercial drone use.” He further elaborated on where the technology might go in terms of automation, noting that “today’s Smart Shots of getting cable cams and orbits and things like that is really in service of being able to do Smart Shots in the future which is just ‘inspect that roof,’ ‘go inspect that cellphone tower,’ ‘map my farm’ and making that very autonomous and easy.”
“We designed the Solo with the intelligence that would allow it to really expand a lot over time”
Of course, increased drone use, both personal and commercial, has been met by increased resistance in many parts of the world, mainly over privacy concerns and safety risks. 3DR and Halo Robotics, however, remain optimistic about the Solo’s appeal and growth potential in Indonesia. “You know, I’ve actually heard more about those risks in the United States and other places than I have heard about them here,” Moselle pointed out, adding that the real risk related to drones mainly come from users who are overeager and start flying without even reading basic instructions. Echoing Kraan’s comments on the company’s commitment to engage and educate consumers, he concluded: “Halo Robotics is making it a real mission to be a strong proponent of safety and safe flying.”
Guinn is even more encouraged by what he sees as the acceptance of drone technology by Indonesians. “People are really open to new technology, and it seems like the people in Indonesia, from what I’ve seen, really have the ability to see past what they might initially think of as red flags,” he elaborated. “They really seem to see the benefits of what drones can do. I think what I have found interesting is that Indonesia seems very forward-looking and very embracing of new technology. So, I think it’s going to be a great market for drones.”