AirMap‘s new CEO, David Hose, is an optimist when it comes to the drone industry. The recently named head of one of the world’s leading drone operations platforms has a lot to be hopeful about: the company estimates that over 85% of the drone economy is currently connected to their platform. With drone forecasts growing every day and new projects across the globe, AirMap is poised to expand all over the world – and David Hose is in a great position to lead them forward.
Hose’s experience isn’t in the drone industry, it’s in location-based services, mapping, mobility – some of the geospatial ideas that provide value for drone industry customers. As a pioneer in the field of location-based services for cell phones, he’s also an expert in managing companies in explosive growth industries.
At AirMap, he’s in a familiar space. “The growth here is really interesting – growth is outpacing the forecasts,” says Hose. “That’s like when I joined the cellular phone industry: you can see that the technology is highly valuable. It feels like the drone industry is in the same place.”
Imagining the Future
Asked why he thinks drone industry growth is so strong, Hose says that people are more accustomed to technology changes now. “It’s happening in a large part because everyone has a cell phone in their pocket – the world is a lot more attached by technology than ever before,” he points out. ” The world knows that drones are going to exist in our lives. People are imagining the future – functions that will automate our lives and improve services and lower costs.”
Getting to that imagined future from here, says Hose, will take some time – but it’s happening. “By and large this industry started as an outgrowth of the hobby,” says Hose. “But cell phones and miniaturization have been adopted by the drone industry – which means that they can build really powerful tools at a low cost.” The tools create value, and the value leads to large enterprise adoption, which will help drive the industry. “It’s lifting by itself,” says Hose. “There’s a huge pull and drive to remove friction in enterprise operations.”
The Gray Area
Still, he says, regulations need to be developed to create clear rules in order for the industry to reach potential. “The big thing that I didn’t understand from the outside was that we currently have built an interesting but early-stage market in the gray zone – the rules aren’t that defined, and people fly without proper authorizations,” says Hose.
“The big companies can’t play in the gray world. The companies that really drive economies can’t play.”
“This business is going to boom when we’re black and white. That’s what AirMap is about – making as many things white as possible,” he says. “LAANC is a great example – but there needs to be a lot more LAANC’s. There’s a lot more airspace that is gray, and it needs to be white. We’re going to work hard with airspace authorities to give them what they need to accomplish that.”
The drone economy boom – and the jobs that government and operators hope for – will happen then, he predicts. “If we increase flights, there is going to be lots of work for lots of people.”
“Points of Light”
Regulation moves slowly, but Hose sees real progress being made. He’s excited about the FAA’s Drone Integration Pilot Program: as a named commercial partner in several applications AirMap hopes to be a major participant. The program will allow states, local and tribal governments to test drone applications in their communities, reporting on the results to inform future regulations. “I describe the Pilot Program as ‘Let’s go try to break some rules,'” says Hose. “Let’s do it for commercial reasons. Fundamentally what we want is to prove that those rules can be broken.”
Hose says that similar things are happening around the world, and he thinks that BVLOS, automated flight, and other areas are opening up.
“We’re seeing these points of light for how things will be in the future,” he comments.
Asked what the immediate future holds for AirMap, Hose says the company is ready to scale. “Global is definitely the headline – we will make a shift from product development to getting the product into the market,” he says, commenting that the company is already involved in major projects internationally, like the recently announced European UTM project. “As LAANC is a game-changer in the U.S., there are similar developments around the world. AirMap’s experience is perfect for that.”
While the company is focused on market growth, they’re still continually adding new functionality to provide clarity for operators everywhere. The core purpose of the map, he says, is to educate people about where they can and cannot fly – good for both operators and regulators. They’ll keep developing their product towards that goal.
“We want to make our application the safest in the world,” says Hose.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.