So, Like, Drones

I’ve worked in technology since graduating college — first GIS, then ad tech, and now civic tech. And while technology can be intimidating and even provocative, when something is your every day, it loses its novelty.

My 5-year stint at Google afforded me the luxury of brand recognition, so nothing I did ever seemed too out there. My landlord loves Google Maps; my MaMa knows how to Google. My work was easy to explain and understand in terms of the tech giant’s most popular products.

Conversely, my current post as #12 at the Santa Monica-based startup AirMap has my family scratching their heads and my friends laughing quizzically. So I’ve spent the last month fine-tuning an elevator pitch that’s wedding season-ready:

“I work at a start-up that is building the infrastructure for low-altitude airspace navigation for unmanned aircraft. So like, drones.”

The “so like, drones” part is critical. Whilst our industry prefers vocabulary less likely to evoke the military industrial complex, the word “drone” better captures the zeitgeist of post-9/11 America, so I guess it stuck.

And if not met with total disinterest, I then launch into the inspiring and scary and undeniable ways in which societies are embracing drones.

Drones are already revolutionizing industries: filmmaking and photography; 3D mapping and architecture; precision agriculture; search aid and disaster recovery; logistics and delivery. And if a drone can deliver a package, it can carry a person.

All of this is to say, if you were waiting for drones to go mainstream before you finally bought one for yourself, you’re late.

The proliferation of drones is, in large part, due to the accessibility of drone technology. Drones are more akin to smartphones than 747s: small, cheap, and, in some cases, homemade. And if anyone with an Amazon account can make and fly a drone, it follows that the skies might start feeling a little crowded.

So, as air navigation service providers work to define the scope of recreational and commercial drone adoption and the rules by which they operate, AirMap is the world’s leading provider of real-time aeronautical data and services to unmanned aircraft. And it’s my job to collaborate with airspace security stakeholders so that innovation can take flight.

So that’s what I do.