Drones are poised to be a blockbuster gift this holiday season. Weird Al is singing about them, South Park is joking about them, and some people spend their entire day researching and writing about them. What is the cause of this meteoric rise in demand for personal flying robots?
Falling prices and increased accessibility only help if the product itself has appeal.
And it certainly isn’t because people have all of a sudden decided they like the idea of flying; remote control airplanes have been around since the 1950s. So what is it about drones that attracts more and more people every day?
The answer is a bit complex but can be explained by looking at another new technological phenomenon on the tip of everyone’s tongue: the selfie.
We are living in an age where taking pictures is a social requirement.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this summer, the world’s most outspoken ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift, wrote she hadn’t been asked for an autograph since Apple invented the forward facing camera. “The only memento ‘kids these days’ want is a selfie,” she said.
It’s not enough to have a picture of something. You have to be in the picture with a who, where or what: “Here I am with Taylor Swift. Here I am pushing over the leaning Tower of Pisa. Here I am eating a sepia sunday.”
However, the catch is because it’s so easy to capture these photos, they aren’t special anymore. If you Google “Taylor Swift Selfie” you get 220 million results in half a second. That would equate to roughly two selfies for every three Americans. I wish those were flu shots.
Pictures with Taylor Swift used to be a novelty because they were exclusive. Now that they are plastered everywhere, they aren’t as special anymore.
To stand out, you have to punch up your pics.
On a recent trip to Europe, Dronelife cofounder Alan Phillips was astounded by the number of people he saw using selfie extenders. If you don’t know what a selfie extender is, it’s basically a glorified stick that holds your phone so you can fit more stuff into the background of your selfie.
And this is where the drones come in.
Drone technology, like the selfie extender, offers a new way to take a picture that is still special. It’s an extension of the digital camera.
As mentioned above, flying remote control airplanes has been a viable hobby for 60 years. It wasn’t until UAVs started sporting cameras and social media integration that people have understood how they can use this technology in their daily lives.
Show Me the Money
Some entrepreneurs have already recognized this fact and are building systems that make drone selfies not just easier, but automatic.
Companies like Hexo+ and AirDog are developing drones that follow you around and stream pictures and video to your phone, all automatically. Other drones in development, like Nixie and Anura, are meant to be portable and launch from the palm of your hand for a quick, hands-free selfie on the go.
These projects are backed by hundreds of thousands of investment dollars, some from complete strangers, all because we want new ways to take pictures of ourselves.
So when you see your neighbor flying his or her new drone the day after Black Friday/Christmas, don’t freak out. They aren’t spying on you- they are far more interested in taking pictures of themselves.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com