This post was originally written by me for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire, original version of the story there.
I was one credit away from graduating college when I first learned what a drone was. It’s not just something for the military, and it’s not something far off in the future.
It’s actually something you can buy for a few hundred dollars at Brookstone or B&H Photo, and it’s something that college campuses are turning into curriculum.
To graduate, I audited a course for one credit on drone journalism. That’s a course where they teach how newsrooms will one day all have drones to take pictures or gather news information from the air.
Media often portrays this new wave of drones as a mechanism of tracking endangered rhinos or shooting Hollywood films. But when I moved from rural Missouri to San Francisco, I found that drones weren’t actually that uncommon. For a growing number of people, they’re a way of life.
They fly over outdoor concerts. Two friends texted me that they saw a drone flying over this year’s commencement ceremony at UC Berkeley. I’ve spotted one outside my apartment complex. Drones are becoming more ubiquitous and easy to spot; the key is finding the operator behind it.
So who is flying them? Like most areas of tech, the drone industry is overwhelmingly male. And many people have different reasons for using a drone. If there was a Breakfast Club sequel solely for drones, this would be the cast.
The tinkerer. He’s an avid participator on a forum for RC enthusiasts. He built his drone himself in a garage using some PVC pipes and an Arduino. He probably belongs to a model RC club and flies it above the high school track on weekends to test out his latest build.
That guy with too much money. He wants a Tesla. He camped out in front of the Apple Store for an iPhone. Now he flies a drone. He’s the guy who foregoes the camera-with-a-timer-on-a-tripod trick to take family photos. His Christmas card picture was taken with a drone. After he finishes his sand volleyball tournament, he goes to take some pictures of the beach, using a drone of course.
The entrepreneur. He has a million ideas for a new startup that involves a drone. Beer delivery? Dry cleaning delivery? Taco delivery? His investment cost was no more than the $1000 price tag on a drone. Perhaps one day his business will be worth as much as Snapchat.