Why Industry Standards Matter – Interview with Chris Korody

In Drone Law Blog by Enrico Schaefer

drone industry standards adoption

Welcome to this addition of DroneLaw.Pro Radio. Your source of information for everything UAV. We are Drone Attorneys and we speak Drone.

Enrico: Welcome to Drone Law Pro Radio. We are here with Chris Korody today. Chris is the person in charge of www.dronebusiness.center and it is a website where he is providing a lot of really great information to the UAV Community and, of course, he has a tremendous background/expertise with technology development and in market research concerning new technologies and that is what we are talking about here with unmanned aerial vehicles. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris: Thank you Enrico, nice to be here.

Enrico: So tell us a little bit about your background and what you are trying to accomplish with www.dronebusiness.center?

Chris: I started helping technologies companies market back in the 70’s and we were known as the hippies that went to Washington to save the Space program because our first big client was North American Rockwell and their baby was the space shuttle. Our job was to keep it alive until they could get it launched. Also, the birth of Navistar, the GPS program. So, we have been lucky to have a ring side seat, I like to say, to lots of things that have changed our lives. A few years after that we went to Cupertino and Steve Jobs became a client. We launched Macintosh with him. It has gone on from there in this sort of enchanted ride and now, here we are, with drones.

Enrico: Yes it’s funny. You wrote an article not too long ago called, Why Standards Would be Critical to UAV Adoption. We have been doing new and emerging company representation since 1992. You have been watching and participating directly in the launch off all these new and emerging technologies, drones are a new and emerging regulated technology and some of the things we have seen before will be certainly occurring again, one of those being standard. I would love to talk about your article, Why Standards Would be Critical to UAV Adoption. Tell the listeners a little bit about what this article is trying to capture, the central message.

Chris: Okay, let me take a shot at this. There is a guy, Enrico, I know you are familiar with, a very smart guy out of Silicon Valley named Jeffrey Moore. He was working there in the early 90’s and his clients were all tech companies. He began to observe that some made it and some didn’t. So he went back to the technology adoption curve, which is kind of the classic bell curve that was actually developed in the fifties. He modified it and put spaces in the curve to indicate there has been disconnects from a bright idea that only a techie or a geek could appreciate to a mature wildly disseminated technology, like for instance Windows. There were these disconnects that happened. The biggest of the disconnects is what he called a chasm. The chasm is a place I talked about in the article, where good ideas go to die. They don’t get any traction. For the listeners who can’t see the picture, the left side of the curve starts with the techies, the geeks, the very early adopters, and the potential who were fascinated but not necessarily in a position to do much but become advocates. The next key group are the visionaries, people, often in large corporations, who see the strategic advantage. They say, “If we could get this to work, we would be the first in the water with it, and we will win in some area that it is important in my company.” The important thing to understand about a visionary is that they are inclined to accept an incomplete solution. They are willing to spend a lot of money on consultants to complete the integration. They are willing to do a lot of things. Right after this visionary comes this gap, a gap between this visionary who is this rare bird and the pragmatist. The pragmatist is a guy in industry who should be a potential client, but it is really hard to sell him. Pragmatist doesn’t value the same thing as the visionary valued and so a lot of the rest of the book, which I didn’t go into is how you get across there. It’s basically you really have to become really good at understanding industry pinpoints and what your customer values. They are not going to buy the technology, there is an old adage, people don’t want to buy the drill, and they want to buy the hole the drill makes.

Enrico: Exactly.

Chris: That is what is on the other side of the chasm. That is what is interesting. I was just at commercial UAV and Jonathan Downey was speaking and that is exactly what he said. We spent the last three years, trying to understand how to do business with these people, and what we now know is that we have to talk to him how to solve their problems. They don’t care what we are doing. And so, those are sort of the three characters. And I made the analogy that while Jeffrey Moore talks about this relative to an individual company that our whole industry is sort of. We’ve got the techies – that love it. We have the Visionaries – people are picking up on it. But the really big numbers, the kind of numbers that the FAA throws around and Price Waterhouse throws around, those can only possibly come with extraordinary wide scale corporate adoption and that will only happen when the pragmatist buy in.

Enrico: Right, so you have this market potential, but then you have this credibility gap. The market isn’t ready for drones yet, not on a mass level, because the pragmatist that make those decisions about whether or not to hire a particular drone service provider or even get involved in the curve that is going to make them understand how they would go about in hiring a professional drone service provider. You have this credibility gap, so how do we fill this gap? How do we actually expand the market for drone services and get to those pragmatist? I think, quite honestly the reason I loved your article, is I think that is exactly where the market is right now Chris.

Chris: Yes, basically the thing the listeners in radio land need to remember is that corporate buyer wants an integrated solution. There is a wonderful old book in web interface design, called Don’t Make Me Think. They don’t want to think, they want to buy it. The pieces have to work together, and as we talk about all the time the least of it is the flying, people want useful information from the data. If you can show them the data, the useful information you can provide, how that will improve their processes, replace existing processes, act the processes, make them more competitive, save them money, then you earn the right to have the discussion. It is certainly one of the things unique this time around, is the amount of press and public attention that is on drones. I remember when we were launching the Apple II, and we had to explain to people what they needed a computer for.

Enrico: Right.

Chris: So VisCalc, a spread sheet, was our first big example. No one even knew what they needed one of these things for. So now, you have tremendous public awareness of drones, both good and bad, and now you know we have to bring it down to the individual user or use case.

Enrico: Yes. And I think one of the quotes of the article you had in there was companies that don’t think there will be standards are dead. And what we are always preaching to the community and our clients is that there are going to be standards beyond Part 107. Part 107 doesn’t require an operations manual, it doesn’t require insurance, it doesn’t require any particular level of training for the pilot and it many cases it doesn’t require a visual observer, etc. Yet the industry standards will become the bench mark by which Pragmatist measure whether you are going to be qualified to do their work, those are going to be industry standards beyond part 107 and if you are not thinking in those terms, not moving towards those standards, helping to develop those standards, you are going to be left behind. What are your thoughts on that?

Chris: That’s exactly right. The second chart in that article is something called the “DVC UAV standard industry stack” and its meant to emulate the traditional software stack where it showed us, then an OS, then applications on top of that only in this case and there is a quote from Chris Anderson, that I really love and started me on this a couple of years ago. He said that this is an industry that is going to fragment into a thousand verticals. So there is tremendous opportunity if you have the domain expertise for that particular vertical. So each of those verticals has to essentially develop their own set of standards, and my go to hero case study right now is the National Association of Tower Erectors and Todd Schlekeway has brought together a group that he is the Executive Director of the Association representing all his constituencies, to start to talk about how this works. Now, we are going to go back and talk to him about training and how do you qualify and insure that someone can actually operate the drone safely around a tower. But at least that is a very narrow vertical discussion in terms that are relevant to the people responsible inside that industry. I think it is a kind of text book case study on what has to happen. Some of the first people in that group, it is a small committee that he started, were some of his UAS providers. We are all going to have to invest to help people figure this out. I think that is the point you are getting too.

Enrico: Yes, for sure, and I agree with what you are saying about segmentation of the industry. There is going to be people doing agriculture and that is what they do. Its people who do tower inspections and that is what they do. They are going to have the expertise, they are going to be developing and shooting towards standards which are beyond what the average drone pilot familiarity with, right? So I know with us, we sell a lot of contracts and operations manuals, flight crew independent contractor agreements and all these different things that help support a quote unquote Professional Drone Service Provider.   It is one thing to own a drone it’s another to present yourself and act like a professional. We think that we want the industry to gravitate towards the professional end in order to help build that credibility gap, in order to help build and create the demand by the Pragmatist and we are always encouraging folks to be a participant in that as opposed to an antagonist to it.

Chris: It depends who you want as a client. I read an article from a guy who is an oil field supervisor for a survey company, I think down in Louisiana a few weeks ago, and the level of expertise required before they even let you in the door. The knowledge of what are the safety requirements they are under.   The industries where the potential is, is so highly regulated already, that you have to understand that. That is where people who come from a particular discipline will have the advantage. They already understand the operating environment that their client is required to function in. I was talking to a gentleman the other day and he made the same point about aggregates and mines. There are some very significant sets restrictions and some very significant amounts of oversight that they have to comply with.

Enrico: Yes.

Chris: And I think the professional part to company with, as you go into the larger companies, you are going to have to deal with purchasing, you’re going to have to make a presentation, you’re going to have to deliver a proposal and ultimately if you do all that right you can present your contract, your budget and a payment schedule. There are a lot of skills to make a business work, especially right now. I think the most important thing is to build that trust and any concerns that you can operate safely and you are not going to cause them any more problems than they already have.

Enrico: One thing I want to talk about a little bit here, Christopher, is your 2017 Commercial UAV Implementation Survey that you are just starting of getting people to sign up for and provide information. You are looking for people to participate, its www.dronebusiness.center , you’ll see a link there you can click on, 2017 UAV Implementation Survey. Chris, what is this survey, what is your purpose?

Chris: I have a background in market research, sort of an adjacent background, and I became really interested in what’s really happened. To me, Part 107 is done, that is the world we are going to live in. So, now what happens? What I am interested in finding out, what the survey is, what are the challenges? How are companies going about to putting this together? Are they starting with pilots? Are they already starting with 333s? Are they going to have 107 themselves? Is this something coming down from management or is this a field guy saying we can do it better, let’s try it? What are the issues with HR, with legal? That is what people are dealing with. My hope is that we create sort of an industry bench mark, the intention is that it would go on over a few years, and it will become a reference point for people who are actually doing it. Saying, that’s an interesting idea I didn’t consider, or I see I am in the majority and I feel good about that. Or people who are looking into it, they can start to say maybe they hadn’t considered that issue and what more is there that I should know about. It’s really intended as a way for to look at ourselves as an industry and how we are growing and hopefully out of that will come some best practices. So the survey, I’m doing in partnership with Jeremiah Karpowicz at CUAD News, and we will go live with the survey in early February, and we will run it for a month, and promote it relentlessly, and shamelessly. They we should have some answers out by April.

Enrico: Interesting. I know you are taking volunteers to be ready to participate in the survey and we will send that link around to folks so that they can start to sign up. Really Chris, we evangelize everyday where this market is, where this emerging market is in the curve. We are at a point where rising tide lifts all boats.

Chris: Absolutely.

Enrico: So once the market matures, competition will become more of a factor. Right now creating the market will bridge that credibility gap, creating trust amongst the pragmatist, all of that is the most important thing. This means working together even when we are competing against each other. I think this survey is a great idea because everyone can give a little bit of their own information and it will spit out a lot of the cumulative information, which will allow us to spot trends. And I love that one question on your pre-survey is, what is your single biggest challenge with regard to commercial UAV because that will be an interesting answer. There are a lot of challenges out there, what is the single biggest one that pilot and operators are facing.

Chris: There are some historical answers already. The pre-survey that we will run until the middle of December, probably until Christmas, and the goal there is to just get some initial input from the listeners, to help me and my partners get some better information to design the survey to make sure it is really on target, with issues that you are concerned about.   I would invite each of you, if you are involved in this, to take a look. It will take you under two minutes to fill out the pre-survey. We will let you know when the survey goes live. And you can shape the way this comes together.

Enrico: Excellent. Chris great to have you on the show today. I really appreciate your time and I am sure we will be having you back. This is Drone Law Pro and this is attorney Enrico Schaefer. We will see you next time.

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