People almost always come over and chat when I fly one of my hobby drones. It used to be that I had to explain what the thing was up in the sky and the reaction was almost always oohs and aahs that technology has come that far. That was half a year ago.
This past weekend I was in a parkland area with almost no people around. The only two people in the general area both stopped by to chat; but this time the conversation had changed.
Instead of asking what I was doing, the jogger who stopped to talk looked up and said “That’s not the DJI model. Which one is it?” I explained that it was a 3D Robotics, designed and manufactured in the US and Mexico. He offered that his brother-in-law flew a DJI Phantom and wanted to know how the 3DR Y6 was different. I explained that the Y6 was conducting an autonomous survey mission and that I couldn’t yet do that with my Phantom. Before resuming his jogging, he wanted to know if there were any news with the FAA position on civilian use of drones. “Better not use it for commercial purposes yet!” he laughed as he got up to speed.
My second conversation was with a father of two out for a stroll. He beckoned the girls closer when I had landed the craft and asked if the model was commercially available or if I had built it myself. (The 3DR kits other than the Iris look less like consumer products and more like scientific instruments.) He then told me how his grandfather (or perhaps his daughters’ grandfather) had built a business in RC [remote controlled] aircraft but after he retired he only flew multicopters.
These conversations did not occur in Silicon Valley. Nor near any of the dedicated drone test sites. These conversations were with random members of the general public who happened to be in the same area I was flying in, somewhere southwest of Fort Worth, Texas. Granted, these are just two data points but the fact that they occurred within half an hour of each other leads me to suspect that a change in the public’s perception of civilian drones is happening. (That, and the fact that Martha Stewart talks about drones in Vanity Fair. That’s a third data point.)
Drones for fun and profit.. the inflection point is near.