“I think that the drone industry has revolutionized some verticals, such as industrial inspection, and mapping. For those particular use cases, drones have such a significant return on investment that they have quickly become commonplace.“
– Miriam McNabb, Drone Life
Learn more at: https://dronelife.com/
Miriam McNabb, Editor in Chief of Drone Life
When was your publication started and how did the idea come about?
Miriam McNabb: DRONELIFE was started in 2013, by a group of investors interested in what they saw as a new and burgeoning industry. Harry [McNabb] and I joined the group and began creating a market offering and content. At the time, the industry was brand new to us.
A few years back, the commercial drone industry was “poised to revolutionize” all kinds of industries. From your perspective, how did drones “perform” over the last years and what are your perspectives for the industry going forward?
Miriam McNabb (Drone Life): I (Miriam) think that the drone industry has revolutionized some verticals, such as industrial inspection, and mapping. For those particular use cases, drones have such a significant return on investment that they have quickly become commonplace. However, I think that for many large industries drones still require too much specialization in skilled labor (a pilot) and new software systems designed for airspace awareness, flight planning, data processing, and more. We used to say “it’s not the drone, it’s the data,” but I think actually, “It’s not the data, it’s the results.” Large companies don’t care how you got your data, or even what you did with it – they just want the important conclusions to show up in the system they’re already using. I think the drone industry is moving towards making everything integrated and easy, but we’re not quite there yet.
Where are you based, and do you notice any particular observations about the drone market in different regions?
Miriam McNabb (Drone Life): I’m based in the U.S., on the East Coast. Surprisingly, I still almost never see drones in my everyday life. Drones are being used in energy, agriculture, construction, and mapping – but they still aren’t widely understood in communities. Here in the U.S. we are still waiting for BVLOS flight and type certification which may help to open up some of the commercial applications that touch people’s everyday lives, like drone delivery. In the meantime, I’m trying hard to tell those stories that illustrate the value drones offer communities.
How has your business handled the coronavirus pandemic and in which areas did you face the biggest challenges?
Miriam McNabb (Drone Life): We were very fortunate during the pandemic: our family stayed healthy and we were able to work remotely. As a digital media platform, we were well-placed to help companies looking for alternative marketing venues.
We have really missed being on the road and being able to communicate with the industry more: we’re looking forward to in-person drone shows and other opportunities to meet new drone companies.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge that drone companies will face over the next 5 years?
Miriam McNabb (Drone Life): I think that drone companies are going to continue to face regulatory challenges over the next 5 years. In reality, regulatory bodies all over the world have really worked incredibly quickly to put drone laws in place – but it just takes time to gather safety data, get appropriate input, and craft regulations that are flexible enough to work into the future. In many cases, processes developed for manned aircraft simply don’t work for the unmanned industry. Unmanned Traffic Management is still in development: we have a lot of tools available but no real global consensus on what that is going to look like and how it will work.
All of that means that it’s going to take time for drones to be fully integrated with manned aircraft; and it will take some time to scale commercial drone use.
Besides your home page and newsletter, is there a particular section or platform for your publication that you want to bring special awareness to?
Miriam McNabb (Drone Life): DroneRacingLife.com, a sister publication of DroneLife.com, which delivers comprehensive coverage of drone racing products, events and people. Our editorial team reports it all, from leagues and results to tips and resources, delivering information useful to all FPV racers, novice and experienced alike.
Ed Alvarado holds a Master’s in International Relations, Bachelor’s in Economics & Philosophy, and has lived in 7 countries.