gretchen_head_brdWhat do commercial drone users want and how will this propel the next wave of industry growth?

We explore these questions and what means to you on this episode of the Drone Radio Show. My guest on this edition of the Drone Radio Show is Gretchen West, Senior Advisor at Hogan Lovells and a member of the firm’s Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems Group. She has served the unmanned systems industry over a decade. Prior to joining Hogan Lovells, Gretchen was at San Francisco start-up DroneDeploy serving as the company’s Vice President of Business Development and Regulatory Affairs. And previously, for over a decade, Gretchen served as AUVSI’s Executive Vice President, overseeing the organization’s global business development initiatives and government relations efforts for the unmanned systems and robotics industry.

There’s no better qualified person to speak on the commercial opportunities in the drone industry. In this episode, Gretchen talks about the issues facing the drone industry today, where things are headed and how Hogan Lovells and the drone industry is coming together to better serve drone users and their ROI.

In this episode

  • [01:43] Introduction. Meet Gretchen West of Hogan Lovells, where she conducts policy work for clients on UAV regulations, helps in business development strategies and is setting up a nonprofit, the Commercial Drone Alliance, to work with end users of the industry.
  • [04:16] What Clients Are Looking For. Gretchen explains that new and existing clients seek more documented information on the ROI and use case of drones. They are look for guidance in navigating the regulatory requirements. Some of these issues may be addressed when the FAA releases their small UAV rule later in 2016.
  • [07:10] Finding Value in Using Drones. The key to the long term growth of the industry is helping small and large companies understand how drones fit into their business, how they can navigate all of the regulatory requirements and how they can be a successful drone based business.
  • [08:00] International Reach. Gretchen discusses the international growth and collaboration of the drone industry, and Hogan Lovells position to serve this growth.
  • [08:58] Risk Based Regulations for Drone Operation. Gretchen explains that countries like France, Japan and Australia have created risk base regulations for operating drones, which a simple to understand. This has resulted in a more rapid commercialization of the industry in these countries.
  • [10:30] Biggest Questions/Concerns. Echoing a theme throughout the conversation, Gretchen mentions that large and small companies, want to have an understanding of the UAV space and how their business fits in. Established companies are looking to understand how they can derive additional value through a drone service, as well as an understanding of the regulatory environment.
  • [11:36] Changes in the UAV Industry. Gretchen discusses some of the changes she’s seen in the 11 years she’s been involved in the industry, namely, in the early years the industry was defined by military use of drones. There was a shift in the use of drones by other units of government and in the past five years, the rise of the consumer and commercial UAV sector has dominated the landscape.
  • [14:15] Economic Benefits and Regulation. Gretchen discusses the economic development benefits of the drone industry, and the need for regulations to support the evolution of the industry, without overly restricting economic growth. There is also a need for education directed at a new class of consumer/prosumer pilot that buys a drone but may not have any formal background in aviation or be aware of the current regulations.
  • [18:31] Role of Manufacturers. With drones becoming so easy to fly, Gretchen touches upon what (or should) manufacturers do to educate buyers on the safe operation and potential perils of flight?
  • [20:55] Commercial Drone Alliance. Gretchen discusses the plan to create a non-profit association of UAV users to provide direct feedback to the drone industry. For the UAV industry to expand positively, the end users have to be included in the conversation.
  • [25:28] Women in Commercial Drone Meet Up. Gretchen talks about the inspiration behind a Women’s in Commercial Drones Meet Up group that she created in San Francisco. She broadens the discussion to talk about the need to involve young people (male and female) in the technology and drone fields and the opportunities to promoting STEM curriculums based on drone technology.
  • [30:07] The Future. Gretchen sees tremendous opportunities in using autonomous vehicles to support several industries, but first we need to get through some of the near term struggles that are causing the uncertainties.
  • [32:19] Surprises. Gretchen describes what has surprised her most during her 11 years in the UAV industry, namely the rapid increase in the consumer commercial drone sector, the unique and innovative business cases and the success the FAA has had in developing regulations that have not overly restricted the commercial market.
  • [33:21] Closing

Mentioned Links

Gretchen West of Hogan Lovells moderates a session on Women in Commercial Drones

Gretchen West of Hogan Lovells moderates a session on Women in Commercial Drones

Gretechen West of Hogan Lovells, participating in a policy discussion in Washington, D.C.

Gretechen West of Hogan Lovells, participating in a policy discussion in Washington, D.C.