How to Launch an Internal Drone Program
Anyone whose heard me talk about the current state of the drone industry has heard me discuss the movement of our industry into a mass adoption phase. Lately, I've been talking quite a bit about the shift drones have made out of proof of concept programs and into daily use. I expect 2018 to continue that trend - hopefully supported by updated regulations from the FAA.
If you're reading this article, you likely don't need to be convinced that drones can enhance your day to day business operations. You may, however, need help convincing your boss. Change is emotional and scary, particularly for large organizations with infrastructure investments. Leaders with profit and loss responsibility are traditionally reluctant to support new initiatives. They tend to be especially suspicious of anything that can be seen as trendy or technology focused. There's also the issue of institutional inertia, big companies are inherently resistant to change, no matter how beneficial or small. How do you overcome these roadblocks? How do you start a drone program from within your organization? Below are a few thoughts from our experience at HAZON in helping Fortune 500 companies do exactly that.
1. ID the Decision Maker
To get your drone program moving forward, at some point someone is going to have to write some checks. The first thing you must do is identify the key decision maker in your organization who can allocate money to a new initiative? Once you determine who you have to sell your plan to you must figure out what they are motivated by: efficiency, effectiveness, cost reductions or safety margins. These four motivations represent four key benefits of unmanned system. Pick a horse and make your case using the other three as supporting features.
2. Build a Plan
Incremental advancement with key decision points can make the new feel less scary. Developing a roadmap that incrementally builds on success will de-risk the effort for the decision maker you've already identified.
3. Don't Forget Insurance
You're going to need additional coverage. Present that upfront to avoid making management feeling nickeled and dimed. Aviation insurance is a fairly niche product that merits specialty providers, look at Global Aerospace as a start point. While you're at it, account for flight log management and the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate.
4. Focus on the COTS
Commercial Off The Shelf options are cheaper, easier to implement and less risky. R&D is normally viewed as slow, expensive and dicey, avoid this association where possible.
5. Source Training
Focused, practical and safety based training will be critical for safe and effective work in the unmanned industry. Presenting a plan that includes a training segment will demonstrate that your efforts are serious.
6. Data is the Mission
The point is not flying an aircraft. The point is acquiring data in a safe, efficient and effective way. Emphasize data management and how you'll integrate the drone sourced data into your organization's existing business practices.
7. Avoid New Business Practices
Drones should enhance what you're already doing - not add to what you're doing. Wherever possible, tie your proposed drone operation back into existing business practices instead of creating new functions. Unless you're the COO or in a small business, you're unlikely to change the way your company handles data. Figure out how to integrate the drone into the business, not the other way around.