When jet engines entered the scene in aviation, very few people appreciated the impact they would have. Many people working directly with the technology didn’t even realize they were at the dawn of a new revolution in aviation.
Here is a remarkable historic photo from NACA in 1946:
What is remarkable is that they included a woman in the photo!
Seriously, that’s a great thing to see. I’m convinced we need more women in engineering and the other STEM fields. It’s a shame many of them don’t have enough encouragement and support to pursue their interests in technical fields. But fortunately, thanks to our Digital Age, people who care about human potential and achievement are finding it easier to connect with each other and collaborate.
Anyway, the improvement in speed and range from jet engines was initially motivated by the desire to make more effective military aircraft, which they certainly did. There are still some military aircraft powered by propellers with piston-engines. But the great majority are jet powered.
In commercial aviation, the jet engine became the driver for much greater innovations such as pressurized cabins. This then led to transcontinental non-stop flights. Now they happen dozens of times every day on many continents of the Earth.
Jet engines led to the success of international business, overnight delivery, family vacations, even professional sports leagues. You couldn’t have a reasonable schedule for the NFL or MLB teams without jet transportation between cities!
As someone who has been in the aviation industry for over 25 years and who is a practicing student of innovation, I’m convinced we are at the dawn of another aviation revolution even greater than the jet age.
It is the commercial drone or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) revolution.
But in our current early phase, we are in a state of intense uncertainty and change. Technology is advancing at a feverish pace—faster than the regulations and laws can keep up.
UPDATE JUNE 4, 2016: One reader and UAV pilot took issue with my use of the word “legal” and “illegal” when describing two groups of commercial drone pilots in the United States. There are those who are using the current FAA procedures and processes, and those who aren’t. The fact that the FAA hasn’t pursued legal action against any of the “independent” operators leads many to believe they know they don’t have any legal basis to prevent commercial drone operations. Here is the bigger point with all of this confusion and debate: this state of confusion and uncertainty is exactly what calls for maneuver warfare strategy! I thank and acknowledge the reader for pointing out the bias with my use of “legal” or “illegal” in the original version. It has been changed to “compliant” or “non-compliant” to reflect the current state of affairs.
Many people who want to do everything compliant (in the United States) are still waiting for our FAA to release the formal rules for Small UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems).
There is widespread tension of pent-up excitement from drone enthusiasts, business owners, and entrepreneurs all across the country waiting for the highly anticipated “cleared for launch” set of rules from the FAA.
But it’s time for a reality check. If you want to make money with your drone, you can do it today.
But there is a very high barrier to entry if you want to do it compliantly, safely, and professionally. You need these five things most of all:
- A private pilots license
- A 333 exemption
- Liability insurance
- FAA notification or approval for local flights
- A dedicated flight observer
As you probably know, there are people flying drones and making money with drones now who are not satisfying all of these requirements. They are doing it “under the table” or independently. Some might say “going rogue.” (Chances are good that you might be one of them!)
A lot of the compliant operators are complaining that these independent operators are undercutting the prices for aerial drone services and products. There is definitely a trend for a “race to the bottom” in pricing for certain markets and customers.
Is your marketing and exposure good enough to compete against them now?
If not, how do you expect to compete against these people after the SUAS rule is released?
When the Part 107 Rule update is released, the pilot license requirement and 333 exemption are expected to be eliminated.
How do you plan to justify your costs and value then?
If you think there is a crowded “race to the bottom” now with commercial drones, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Solving this dilemma comes down to three major assignments for you:
- VALUE – are you really worth the additional cost? What are you providing that the other “amateurs” are not, or cannot?
- POSITIONING – what customers and market niche are you going to pursue? You need to identify the “targets” that have high alignment with your capabilities and expenses. Using your $3,000 system and filing a COA for a $100 real estate photo shoot is like towing a banner with a Burt Rutan Long-EZ aircraft. It just ain’t right!
- MARKETING – how will you represent yourself effectively, and get yourself known by the people who have the likelihood of becoming your customers?
There are a huge number of books, videos, and resources out there with information and recommendations on how to tackle these challenges. But the current situation with commercial aerial drones is very unique.
These early days of the drone revolution are like the wild west of western expansion. Nobody yet has a clear advantage or dominance in the market. The innovators are racing ahead of the legal authorities. But we all know that there’s a heck of a lot of gold in them thar hills! Or skies…
How can you find and claim a profitable niche with your drone?
How can you find customers who want a drone flight product at a profitable price for you?
How can you capture and dominate your market with a drone before someone else does?
Here is the good news. Other smart people have figured out what to do (and how to think) in situations like this. Achieving success in an environment of chaos, uncertainty, and rapid change is exactly what maneuver warfare theory has been developed to excel in.
Imagine you are playing a game of chess with a grand master. Want to know how you can beat them quite easily and predictably? Change the rules so that you get to make TWO moves for every ONE of theirs.
By operating at twice their OODA Loop (their cycle for observation, orientation, decision, and action), you become nearly invincible.
If you can learn how to operate in a similar manner in the commercial drone space, you’ll also become almost certain to win. That is the benefit that maneuver warfare theory will bring to you.
Many of these same principles have gone into the field that is called guerrilla marketing. No coincidence, because guerrilla warfare is one specific example of maneuver warfare.
Would you like to be able to identify the best customers and markets that align with your capabilities and value… then engage with them faster and more effectively than anyone else?
Why spend your precious time and money investing it in efforts that aren’t going to be profitable? Unfortunately, that’s what happens with most startups.
Here are 3 essential books to teach you the powerful fundamentals of how to apply maneuver warfare theory and guerrilla marketing into your drone business:
1. Certain to Win by Chet Richards
This book contains the wisdom of the ages from Sun Tzu, Ghengis Khan, the Nazi Blitzkreig, modern guerrilla warfare, and (of course) John Boyd, translating it into concepts and principles that you can apply to your business. More powerful than teaching you where to fish (what markets) and what kind of fishing rod to use (what kind of marketing tools or methods), you’ll learn the deeper fundamentals about how to spot and catch the fish while your competitors are still trying to pick out the right fishing gear in the store.
John Boyd never wrote a book, sadly. Chet Richards was one of his close associates and friends. This book is a must-read if you are a fan of John Boyd’s ideas and want to apply them in business.
By the way, if you are still spending all of your time and energy (and money) tinkering around with yet another hardware and software upgrade before you’ve had a single conversation with any prospective customer, PLEASE do yourself a big favor. Take a pause. Read this book. Reset. And then maneuver into profit sooner with the wisdom you gain from Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business.
2. Guerrilla Marketing Remix
Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing. He has a many books about guerrilla marketing, but this one is the most current all-in-one book. It has his best summaries, plus short chapters on many specific applications of guerrilla marketing from over 30 authors!! Two excellent examples are guerrilla marketing for job hunting and guerrilla marketing on the internet.
You’ll learn the mentality, strategy, and tactics necessary to outsmart and outwit your competitors while spending a lot less money in the process. You’ll learn many remarkable examples from other successful guerrilla marketing campaigns. If you want to create viral marketing campaigns, this is an essential read too.
Here’s an example. Guerrilla marketers know how to get other people to do marketing for them. A restaurant owner asked herself, “Where else do my customers spend their time and money?” One answer she came up with was hair salons. So she sent a personalized letter and coupon for two free meals to her establishment. Not just a discount and no dollar limit—completely free! It might seem like a large expense. But can you guess what happened? Those hair salon owners became enthusiastic long-term sales and marketing agents for her restaurant. Every time local restaurants came up in conversation with their clients sitting in the chairs of their hair salons, what restaurant do you imagine was mentioned with a positive recommendation? Word spread quickly about her restaurant and she never had to worry about advertising again.
That is being a clever guerrilla marketer. Learn more, including the 200 weapons of a guerrilla marketer, when you read The Best of Guerrilla Marketing: Guerrilla Marketing Remix.
3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
I cannot give you any list of books on marketing without including a book by Seth Godin. Besides being a world-respected icon and mega-best-selling author with multiples books, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Seth for transforming my life and career.
Before I read his books, I was a competent yet slightly frustrated “meets expectations” engineer and project manager sitting in a cubicle. After reading his books, a shift in mindset, attitude, and skills occurred in me that transformed me into a modern entrepreneur. First I was an intrapreneur – starting new initiatives, experiments, and mini-businesses within my employer. Then the innovations continued outside the company.
An early example – in less than 6 months I got a new 3-D printer acquired and into operation at my company site after other people had been trying to do the same thing for 7 years. I got it done without any formal authority or permission. If it weren’t for Seth Godin and his books, I wouldn’t have had the courage, initiative, resourcefulness, and marketing ability to make that happen.
Seth’s mission is to help people change the status quo and create a ruckus. That is exactly what will happen with commercial drones—in a good way, as long as we have the right people doing the right things. That needs to be YOU reading this article. If you haven’t read any of Seth’s books and want a powerful upload on marketing, get and read Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable–Includes new bonus chapter.
Depending on your particular situation, Seth has many other tremendous and transformational books that I want to mention and recommend too.
If you want to create a movement, or a passionate group of fans and followers, then you need to read this book:
If you have a vision for what is possible and you know what you want to do, but you are having trouble fighting The Resistance That Cannot Be Named (whether it’s external or internal), you need to buy and read this book:
Finally, if you are working within a company or organization and trying to fight against the tide that is turning so many jobs into a commodity (through outsourcing or contract labor, for instance), this book is for you:
There you have 3 books (or more accurately, 3 authors) who will transform your marketing abilities and skills to become successful with your commercial drone business.
When you use the links on my blog, you’ll be using an Amazon affiliate link that vectors off a small percentage of their profits back to me. You pay the same price, regardless. Thank you for the purchase if you make it from here.
If you have questions or want someone to talk with about your particular situation, I invite you to contact me directly. But I will warn you, if you haven’t made the effort to invest in your own development and education first by reading at least one of these books, I won’t have much time for you.
Innovation is happening whether you choose to participate or not. Many people will ride the unmanned aircraft wave—why not be one of them? The commercial UAV revolution has begun, and we’re just getting started!
As someone who grew up building and flying radio-controlled airplanes and model rockets, then turned this passion into a rewarding career in aerospace engineering, I know that if I don’t join the swarm of activity around commercial drones I’ll be living with tremendous regret in 10 and 20 years.
It’s probably similar to what the tech geeks who grew up with Atari and Commodore 64 think about the internet explosion. Why didn’t more of us see how massive and profitable the internet would be?
I still kick myself about that every now and then… How about you?
I hope that isn’t you again in 10-20 years. I’m on a mission is to make the commercial drone revolution successful, beneficial, and profitable for as many people as possible. If you want that to include you, that’s why I’m giving my strongest recommendation for the three books above.
Traditional business approaches, decision timeframes, and marketing strategies are not going to succeed with the disruptive innovation of UAVs. You’ll need innovative business and marketing methods to match.
Use maneuver warfare theory and guerrilla marketing. Then you’ll be able to capitalize on your unique value, connect with customers faster and more effectively than your competition, and maneuver into a profitable victory.
Now you might be saying, “Brett, I don’t have time or money (or both) to get these books and read them! How can I speed this process up?”
If that is your situation, you’ll be happy to know that I’m working on a free resource for drone entrepreneurs and innovators that combines all of these materials into one powerful guide. As I write this blog post, it isn’t finished yet. So contact me here now to get on the notification list.
If you still can’t wait for it to come out, ask me if you can look at an pre-launch version. I would appreciate feedback from one or two more people on it, so maybe that person can be you.
In the meantime, thanks a lot for reading this article. I hope it has been worth your while.
Take care, and take charge!
Brett Hoffstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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