(Source: 3drobotics.com‘s Roger Sollenberger)
Over the past year personal drones have drawn a ton of media coverage, more and more frequently from TV news and high-profile outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Vice and the Washington Post. I personally come from a liberal arts background, and until I first entered this field in the summer of 2013 hadn’t caught any media coverage of personal drones. Even my friends, many of whom read Wired and certainly consume their fair share of TED talks, were unaware that such an incredible technology had trickled down to where it was accessible and affordable for everyday users. But this year has seen a precipitous rise in mainstream media coverage, in parallel with technical advancements that have driven many more sales. Today I’d be surprised if anyone in my circles hasn’t seen or heard something about drones from one media outlet or another.
Of course, this steep interest curve applies to any new game-changing technology. But the drone discussion has other dimensions to it, addressed later, which I have trouble finding true analogs for in any recent high-tech boom. So with a year or so of major media coverage to reflect upon, I’d like to examine the shape that this coverage has taken: What does it say about public perception of this technology? How and why might the media be shaping that perception? And what is their—and our—responsibility to the public?
Breaking the news about drones
If there was a catalyst, at least domestically, Amazon’s delivery drone commercial, released almost exactly a year ago, seems to have been the first big media moment for consumer and commercial drones. (Incidentally, those Amazon drones are powered by our Pixhawk autopilot.) Since then media outlets around the world ranging in scope from 60 Minutes to the Northern Nevada Business Weekly have run stories on the budding technology.
These stories tend to follow one of two arcs. Either they come from tech venues such as Fast Co. and Vice’s Motherboard, or from traditional tech-secular outlets like the Post or 60 Minutes. To state the obvious, tech publications tend toward providing technological future-casts, as well as releases and reviews of new products and applications. Traditional media usually take a broader view—and often more coarse and skeptical—which frequently leads to speculation about the size of the emerging market and the impact of drones on our daily public and private lives. These distinctions aren’t surprising. But they are consequential.
Our company is obviously steeped in the tech world, as are most of the folks who read this blog. That said, I’d like to put the tech outlets to the side and focus on mainstream media, which have more influence over the general public and are a much better barometer for the zeitgeist.
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