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Top 10 Tips for Creating a Triumphant Tech Enterprise

By Barry Alexander, Founder & CEO, Aquiline Drones

Growing up on the island of St. Lucia, I was always fascinated by planes and helicopters. In my younger years, I pioneered a crucial air ambulance service called Aquiline Air Ambulance – we used airplanes to fly critically ill or injured patients, as well as health and medical resources, to specialized hospitals across the Caribbean and into the US.

Self-actualization is necessary to combat adversity, and is a gift that provides hope, empowerment, self-worth, and balance. My family faced hardship in St. Lucia and coming from humble circumstances, I realized early on that I needed to create my own opportunities in order to be successful. I had an aunt living in Connecticut, so I came to the US where I often worked two full-time jobs to put myself through flight school. I never lost sight of my ultimate goal.

After earning my wings, I then spent over 25 years as an airline pilot and Captain. Most recently, I flew a Boeing 747 around the world, supporting US military operations and global commerce with Atlas Air. I utilized the last three years with the company vetting the drone industry on a global scale. I visited factories all over China/Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America to learn about drone manufacturing and drone operator best practices after recognizing the need for an all-encompassing American drone enterprise and ecosystem.

Aquiline Drones

Now, I have successfully launched my “final” entrepreneurial endeavor, Aquiline Drones (AD): one of the fastest-growing American drone companies, comprised of business professionals, fellow airline pilots, aerospace and software engineers, distinguished military personnel, algorithmic mathematicians, and other technologists.

Aquiline Drones is different from other drone manufacturers or operators in that we are more aviation-centric and thus, mindful of the operating environment, as well as being intimately familiar with the regulatory environment and the FAA.

Most importantly, we realize that drones without a payload are just flying mechanical robots. We therefore created the “brains to the body” by introducing the industry’s first aviation-inspired and drone-dedicated cloud – Aquiline Drones Cloud (ADC) – capable of supporting a wide variety of commercial drone solutions that gather, analyze, model, and store data/video for law enforcement departments, state agencies, public works departments, agriculture, military, and small and mid-sized enterprises.

Designed with extreme security and compliance, ADC supports real-time and autonomous drone operations and can be remotely deployed. It is easily scalable and allows for third-party development (Platform-as-a-Service or PaaS). The Aquiline Drone Real-Time Operating System (ADRTOS) is the world’s first aviation-inspired drone OS based on RTEMS open-source technology, ARINC 653 software specifications, DO178, DO330, ARP4754, and other aviation-compliant standards and protocols.

While drones are our tech industry of choice, the exciting aspect of technology is its constant evolution. If you’re looking for new ways to streamline an application, improve the customer experience, or fill a gap in your industry, AI is the next tech frontier that offers many areas of opportunity.

The Rules of Tech Industry Success

Here are some of my tried-and-true rules for creating a successful tech department or company:

    1. Use tech to solve society’s most complex issues – Drones can be part of a comprehensive solution set that offers Total Planetary Protection (TPP): aiding in the prevention and mitigation of forest fires, oil and gas spills and other natural disasters; assisting farmers with crop and cattle food supply management; helping law enforcement with surveillance and emergency services specific to disaster preparedness, response, and relief; and monitoring climate change by surveying bodies of water.
    2. Assemble a talented team – Do not let your ego prevent you from hiring people who are smarter than you!
    3. Do not be afraid to reinvent the wheel – Similar products and services may exist out there, but there is always room for improvement.
    4. Look beyond the present – Identify trends in how people will live and work five or ten years from now.
    5. Have the courage to change your business plan – Initially, I conceptualized Aquiline Drones as a drone dealership with the understanding that the industry was lacking direction. I quickly decided to move toward a pioneering position so that we could define standards for the industry, working in concert with the FAA, NASA, and other regulatory authorities. We needed to ensure that we first created a healthy ecosystem (and marketplace) within which drones could be introduced and would allow for drones to work alongside humans and provide augmented services.
    6. Know that passion comes from the top and should start with leadership – Nothing is more inspiring than company executives who are working toward the greater good and who believe their company offers the best solutions for their customers’ needs. Additionally, when the corporate culture is one of inclusion and mutual respect, everyone feels valued and more motivated to help the company succeed.
    7. Incentivize your sales force – We all know that money is one of the most motivating factors, so offering incentives such as stock options personally incentivizes employees to ensure and safeguard the company’s bottom line.
    8. Take your mission directly to your customers – By exhibiting at key industry events like the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit and Expo, the Army Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition, as well as the Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Aquiline Drones forged key relationships with industry innovators and suppliers for future growth.
    9. Offer each customer a customized solution – No two businesses are alike, so the more specifically you can address their needs, the more satisfied they will be with the end result and the more likely they are to recommend you to others. We like to think of ourselves as a drone and cloud solutions company in that we focus less on the drones, and more on their capabilities to capture the data that is later analyzed, modeled, and used to provide valuable insights to the customer.
    10. Strive to forge mutually beneficial partnerships – Rather than just supplier/customer relationships, you never know what growth opportunities will emerge. For example, one of our most recent partnerships is an exclusive production license, sales, and distribution agreement with Drone Volt in France to become the US manufacturer of its products – the Hercules 2 and Altura Zenith drones, along with its Pensar AI camera. Drone Volt is an international leader in the field of professional civilian drones and embedded artificial intelligence. By the end of 2020, Aquiline Drones had almost doubled its original size – both in staffing and manufacturing space – to facilitate drone production, with plans to increase production capacity month-over-month by the end of 2021.

Our timing is particularly apt given The American Security Drone Act of 2019, which aims to ban the federal procurement of drones manufactured by “Covered Countries” and other unmanned aerial systems. Additionally, the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) recent announcement that it will no longer use DOJ funds to purchase or operate any drone from “Covered Countries” fuels the demand for US manufactured drones. Both developments open up opportunities for US drone manufacturing, which AD is suitably poised to fulfill.

Bonus Tip #11: Treat each customer interaction as unique, with respect and individualization – This approach is likely to have a more positive and impactful effect on customers, such that they eventually become advocates of your company, its products, and its services.

Flight to the Future

We are doing all of these things at Aquiline Drones. As one of our initiatives, we launched a jobs initiative called Flight to the Future, which is a robust online drone pilot training program. Initially designed as a way for our fellow pilots who are either out of work or underemployed from the pandemic to make extra income, we quickly realized that our drone training and small business start-up program is applicable to any American seeking to transition into a new career within the rapidly growing drone technology field. Accordingly, we opened the program to anyone 18+ years old, and depending on their level of experience, participants can become a fully licensed drone pilot within 3-6 months.

More specifically, our Flight to the Future enrollees will become:

    • Pilot Trained and FAA Certified
    • AD Cloud Immersed
    • Masters of a Specific Industry Application
    • Small Drone Business Owners

Of course, Aquiline Drones’ Flight to the Future program utilizes the most sophisticated technology platform to achieve its goals, including AD’s proprietary “Spartacus” digital agent that provides feedback throughout a participant’s curriculum and training. Spartacus then becomes a job advisor once the individual establishes their business by forwarding lists of approved job requests for actual drone opportunities and missions.

Being a global leader of an industry that is growing 13.8% annually with a potential market of $127 billion by 2025, Aquiline Drones believes that adding 1 million new drone pilots/small business owners to the US economy within the next few years is a tangible reality.

Current Applications for Drone Technology

Some current and crucial applications for drone technology include:

    • Asset Inspection – Drones can reach remote assets (drilling/offshore equipment, warehouses, wind/solar farms, etc.) to improve preventive maintenance, reduce costs, and reduce downtime, while improving the safety of personnel and ROI. Utilizing still imagery, video, and 3D modeling, industrial structures can be visualized and inspected in detail using AI-enhanced image recognition capabilities.
    • Delivery/logistics – Cloud-based, centralized control, autonomous flight, and precision terrain data using “see-and-avoid” capability allow small-package drone delivery for a variety of payloads. AD has recently introduced “precision logistics,” a blockchain-supported chain-of-custody (hand-off) system for when there’s zero tolerance for errors.
    • Agriculture – A growing application in agriculture is “precision farming,” in which autonomous sprayer drones are capable of carrying 25 lbs. (3 gallons) or more of liquid to cover 12,000 square feet or 0.3 acres of land. Besides distributing fertilizer and insecticides more cost effectively and safely than humans, drones also have the ability to scan large areas of land, collecting critical information through NDVI (normalized difference vegetative index) sensors. The data collected can be algorithmically processed to display the health of crops, as well as other risk vectors such as poor irrigation and soil health. Autonomous drones are a conservation game changer, with the ability to return data from remote locations. Lost livestock is now easily addressed by drones with high-resolution cameras. Even at night, an infrared camera can identify stray stock from their heat signatures. Furthermore, heat signatures can help determine the health of livestock, which could trigger preventive/preemptive action by farmers.
    • Video production – Drones offer next-level business marketing for real estate, entertainment venues, tourism, colleges, churches, and other institutions with specialized capabilities and preloaded flight configurations.
    • Surveying and mapping – In the world of telemetry and geodetic engineering in which mapping and terrain topologies are determined and used by the aerospace, aviation, forestry management, and farming industries, drones are now equipped with LiDAR sensors to perform scans of areas at a far cheaper rate. Drones also produce more precise data than their fast-moving, fixed wing, piloted counterparts. Autonomous surveying drones will do exactly as they are instructed and create tremendous efficiencies.
    • Law Enforcement – One of the largest areas for commercial drone growth is within the law enforcement and public safety sector. For example, when emergency calls are received that involve criminal activity, drones can be deployed ahead of police arrival to provide first-person views for situational awareness, thus capturing crimes in action, providing first responders with live footage of the scene, and recording footage/images of suspects that may have fled the scene prior to the authorities’ arrival. In this context, drones can be outfitted with sirens and flashing blue and red lights indicating the arrival of the authorities on scene, thereby serving as deterrents to crimes or escalations, while improving response rates for cities. Subsequently, police authorities will be safer on the job and more effective at solving or fighting crimes that truly necessitate their involvement.
    • Emergency Response – Emergency situations that do not involve crimes can also be better managed using drones. Just as the police would benefit from a drone solution system, so too would a fire department and/or EMT. When seconds count, drones can be sent ahead of first responders to assess the situation on the ground, give responders a crucial heads-up, and deliver life-saving supplies to victims that are not readily reachable by a human person in time. Even the coordination of street cleaning can be assisted by drones. Consider a snowstorm that delivers a foot of snow on the ground. Drones can scan streets, and especially side streets, to help snowplows coordinate their actions effectively and efficiently.
    • Smart Cities – In a “smart city” initiative, AI-driven sensors are connected to a centralized cloud-connected mobile command center (MCC) that can be deployed in key locations throughout metropolitan areas. The sensors are designed to pick up sounds and other anomalies associated with crimes or danger, which would then launch a drone able to transmit live video stream to the alerted authorities to investigate remotely and determine appropriate action.
    • Protection During a Pandemic – Lastly, while drones may not be able to prevent another pandemic from happening, they can certainly mitigate conditions sooner by potentially containing the disease and stopping the rapid spread of it before it reaches pandemic status. Some such uses for drones include:
        • Delivery of medical supplies to front-line healthcare workers
        • Transport of test results to labs
        • Delivery of medicine and urgent supplies to individuals quarantined at home
        • Spraying disinfectant into disease-infected public areas
        • Serving as mobile public speakers to inform people of safety measures and tips
        • Patrolling high-risk areas with photoelectric sensors to enforce curfews
        • Monitoring the health status of employees/individuals with higher-than-normal heat signatures using infrared cameras
        • Providing 24-hour surveillance of critical infrastructure, such as power and nuclear facilities and water and sewage treatment plants, as well as essential retail operations, like grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations.

To address the growing demand for drone usage in our current gig economy, Aquiline Drones is launching the nation’s first true “Drone-on-Demand” (DoD) mobile app. Akin to Uber and Lyft, individuals and businesses will have the luxury of ordering both private and commercial drone services right from their fingertips. DoD will be accessible through all mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Aquiline Drones envisions a world in which humans and drones live and operate in harmony, using their real-time control, autonomy, and analytics to reduce costs, maximize return on investment, and create new business value. As people continue to realize and experience the capabilities of drones to protect property, reduce transportation carbon footprints, and save lives, this vision is not only possible, but highly plausible.

Bio

A veteran pilot, serial entrepreneur, and visionary leader, Barry Alexander is founder and CEO of Aquiline Drones, a full-service, US-based commercial drone company that boasts an integrated manufacturing and supply chain, world-class MRO services, and real-time data insights to improve ROI across a variety of industries. Barry’s ultimate goal is to revolutionize the entire American drone market through innovative technology and key community and governmental partnerships to create a world in which humans and drones live and operate in harmony for the betterment of society.

Customizable Cloud-Computing Ensures Successful Commercial Drone Missions

By Barry Alexander, Founder and CEO, Aquiline Drones

Although awareness of and appreciation for commercial drone systems is growing, many businesses remain unaware of the opportunities drones offer to achieve better business results, help streamline business solutions, and elevate profitability. Drones are unique aerial vehicles and are ideal for providing crucial aerial perspectives to assess emergency situations like the recent Australian wildfires, and for delivering critical medical supplies to those in need. Drones are even being used to deliver information to the public, as in the current coronavirus pandemic.

However, most businesses do not realize the intrinsic benefit of integrating drones into their day-to-day operations, whether it be for asset inspection and management, perimeter security, precision farming, aerial ranching, video production, or surveying and mapping. The list continues! But a point of note is this: A drone is just mechanical hardware unless used optimally to gather information. Such reconnaissance activity allows users to capture, analyze, manage, model, and share data insights – usually in real-time. This level of application calls for a robust computing platform that supports complex drone operations and the footage they generate. This is facilitated with cloud computing technology.

According to a recent survey by RedLock, only 7% of businesses firmly believe they have decent visibility over all important company information from drone usage in a well-structured and well-secured enterprise cloud. To address their inadequacies, companies are now seeking out unique, customizable, technical platforms such as the AD Cloud. These platforms offer everything involved in completing commercial drone operations in one centralized setting. The AD Cloud in particular provides a variety of salient features ideal for building highly customizable and large-scale solutions.

Building a Cloud from the Ground Up

Core features and services offered by some of the nation’s most notable cloud companies that have mastered and integrated artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) include:

  • Modularity – Scalability for high-density drone operations across industries requires a modular cloud design, in which services can be added a la carte, allowing businesses to start small, then scale up as needed.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Specific – It is important for cloud environments to cater to the industries for which they are being used. Specialized cloud platforms such as the AD Cloud provide algorithms for UAV operations, manufacturing, and maintenance, making the AD Cloud more valuable and more desirable for businesses that want to integrate UAVs into their operations.
  • Aviation Compliance – Drones are aircraft. Accordingly, they must operate and should be held to the same or similar standards as manned aircraft. These standards should be established and regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A drone-specific cloud should maintain built-in compliance rules to ensure that connected devices remain safe and compliant with regulations and the law.
  • True Autonomy – Allows for autonomous UAV operations with plug-and-play mission capabilities.
  • Data Insights – Specialized algorithms can be created for flight control, traffic management, enhanced awareness, terrain modeling, and image recognition, along with specific additions for more sophisticated scenarios.
  • Full Lifecycle Governance – This includes providing connectivity and insights across the drone lifecycle – from product development, to manufacturing, to UAV operations and MRO – resulting in greater efficiencies and reduced downtime.
  • Dynamic Dashboard – A full-capability digital dashboard accessible on any device delivers a comprehensive, standardized, and flexible user experience (UX) with the power of the cloud at one’s fingertips. Users can plan, collaborate, and execute missions, livestream data and video, and obtain real-time data insights – all from within a single and customizable enterprise asset management (EAM) system.

Further, a comprehensive cloud system such as AD Cloud can also aggregate data, which enables companies to make statistical forecasts and logical inferences for future resource planning and allocations.

A Bright and Lofty Future

Despite its extreme growth within the past decade, the global cloud computing market is forecast to exceed $623 billion by 2023 as 80% of organizations – many using drone technology – migrate to the cloud by 2025.

One key projection is that cloud computing will change the hardware architecture of drones by simplifying these flying robots. With low latency, higher bandwidth, and a highly reliable connection to the cloud, a drone only needs to carry sensors, without requiring any additional power.

Drones and edge computing technology will continue to grow exponentially, allowing for more resolution, more sensor types, and more flight capabilities, while supporting demand for higher frequency and more data. In fact, drone fleets and swarms will have the ability to launch from edge computing hubs to further automate the process.

Another major highlight will be the quick creation and activation of a comprehensive cloud computing-drone infrastructure as directed and overseen by the FAA, the regulatory agency for all UAVs – ensuring safety remains paramount.

Lastly, the recent introduction of a bipartisan bill in Congress entitled, The American Security Drone Act of 2019 essentially bans the use of foreign drones – mainly Chinese drones – and other unmanned aerial systems that have been purchased with federal dollars.

The drone industry continues to gain in purpose and popularity, empowering companies that use them with powerful, customized cloud computing capabilities. Cloud-enabled drone technology increases these companies’ operating efficiency, efficacy, safety, and ultimately, their bottom line. As more of these cloud computer-connected devices take to the sky, we’ll see a world that is truly interconnected within the technological atmosphere.

Bio

A veteran pilot, serial entrepreneur, and visionary leader, Barry Alexander is founder and CEO of Aquiline Drones, a full-service, US-based commercial drone company that boasts an integrated manufacturing and supply chain, world-class MRO services, and real-time data insights to improve ROI across a variety of industries. Barry’s ultimate goal is to revolutionize the entire American drone market through innovative technology and key community and governmental partnerships to create a world in which humans and drones live and operate in harmony for the betterment of society.

Unmanned Edge Operations Are the Future

By Michael C. Skurla, Chief Technology Officer, BitBox USA

The growth of edge is an interesting phenomenon. The rise of edge computing closed the IT infrastructure gap with edge data center deployments. The rise of public cloud and centralized computing paved the way to hybrid cloud and decentralized computing. However, within a distributed infrastructure, the IT ecosystem demands a mix of telecom and web services.

Whether on-premise, or closer to end-users, edge computing complements the current public cloud or colocation deployments.

The increased demand for connectivity-driving data proliferation positions IoT’s critical role as an edge enabler. But adding more “client” devices to networks isn’t the only role of IoT within an edge ecosystem. The often-overlooked side is for the required IoT technology to enable edge operations.

While cloud computing shifted the data center to a third-party network operations center (NOC), it didn’t eliminate on-premise data center operators who manage and respond to facility problems. Edge introduced a new challenge to network operations: autonomous management with limited access to the individuals who are local to equipment to address problems or perform maintenance. The new norm does not have in-house IT staff, equipment and machines under one or several roofs. It distributes data center operations into thousands of smaller facilities, most of which are not readily accessible in a short drive or walk.

Describing the edge as, “the infrastructure topology that supports the IoT applications,” Jeffrey Fidacaro, Senior Analyst for 451 Research Data Centers, underscores the importance of building a “unified edge/IoT strategy” that taps into multiple infrastructure options to manage the onslaught of IoT and facility systems while dealing with the needs of constant change.

Interestingly, the platforms around IoT solutions, not the hardware itself, are the answer to this quandary. Based on IT standards, IoT sensing and monitoring hardware offers granular, a la carte-style monitoring solutions. These solutions are often easy-to-install, flexible form-factor hardware packages that equip small sites, from shelters down to small electrical enclosures. Since these devices offer a multitude of functions and data points, they make reliable and remote facility management possible.

For instance, the sensing technology of ServersCheck allows granular site data to be generated from hardware, which complements an IoT platform that allows large amounts of sites to be monitored in concert while also tying in more complex control sub-systems such as HVAC, generators, access control, and surveillance equipment. These IoT platforms expand monitoring and remote management to a global scale, allowing customized alarming, reporting, dashboarding, and more, for a geographically distributed portfolio of locations.

This style of IoT management solution allows a flexible, customized design for each site. Its scalable infrastructure reduces the need for NOCs to monitor multiple separate software packages to determine conditions at each site. This facilitates rapid remote diagnostics and a triage of problems before dispatching staff to remedy issues.

Edging to Cellular Levels

Telecommunications keeps pushing further to the edge. In particular, remote monitoring is more crucial than ever, with the planned 5G rollout that ensures rapid growth of small-cell technology piggybacking on shared infrastructure such as streetlights, utility poles, and existing buildings.

As wireless transmitters and receivers, small-cell technology design allows network coverage to smaller sites and areas. Compared to the tall cell towers enabling strong network signals across vast distances, small cells are ideal for improving the cellular connectivity of end-users in densely developed areas. They play a crucial role in addressing increased data demands in centralized locations.

The rapid scalability of small cell technology can not only meet the demands of 4G networks, but can also easily adapt to 5G rollouts to expedite connectivity functions closer to the end-users. In clustered areas, small-cell technology allows for far superior connectivity, penetrating dense areas, and in-building sites.

Consider small-cell technology as the backbone of the fourth industrial revolution. Enabling the transmission of signals for transmitting even greater amounts of data at higher speeds, small-cell technology empowers IoT devices to receive and transmit far greater amounts of data. It also enables 5G technology, given the density requirements of the technology.

Enterprises face a flood of data from IoT connectivity. In fact, Cisco estimates this data flood to reach 850 zettabytes by 2021. This is driving edge buildouts of all sizes and shapes. To accomplish this, edge operators must rethink how they manage and monitor this explosion of sites. IoT platforms have proven to have the scalability and flexibility to take on this challenge in a highly affordable way.

As Forrester research predicted, “the variety of IoT software platforms has continued to grow and evolve to complement the cloud giants’ foundation IoT capabilities rather than compete with them” and it expects the IoT market to continue to see dramatic and rapid change in coming years.

It’s time for the technology that edge is being built to support – IoT – to play a role in managing the critical infrastructure that enables it. IoT platforms can tie the knot for this marriage.

Bio

Michael C. Skurla is the Chief Technology Officer for BitBox USA, providers of the BitBox IoT platform for multi-site, distributed facilities’ operational intelligence, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Mike’s in-depth industry knowledge in control automation and IoT product design sets cutting-edge product strategy for the company’s award-winning IoT platform.