Henri Seydoux, founder of wireless tech firm Parrot, known for its range of retail and professional drones, explains why he’s so fascinated by unmanned aerial vehicles and why we should be too.
It is sensational to make a drone take off, to see it leaving the ground with great skill, disappearing behind a tree, then to wait for it and finally to hear it, to see it coming back and landing.
Although it is an assembly of microprocessors, carbon tubes, engines and propellers in high performance plastic in a refined design, I see the drone as a bird. It is at ease in the air. It moves in a world that is not accessible to us. Of course we fly in planes, but it is not truly the art of flying. To remain seated for seven hours in front of a TV is not flying…
Are drones ‘The Birds’ of Hitchcock, spreading fear and terror? Are drones, or more especially the microdrones I conceive with my team, weapons? As for technology, are computers weapons? Is the world such a depressed place where each new invention seemingly becomes a new terror, a new pollution, a new destruction?
Drones fly like birds, close to the ground. That is what is interesting. Close to the ground, the things we see from the sky are familiar to us. A distance is created and we recognise all that we see, and we see everything in a new way.
The key success of drones is this aesthetic, this perspective it provides to us on the ground. It is still new and fascinating.
On television, the success of drones is huge. Every hour of programming we see images from the sky. A couple of weeks ago, on the evening news, I saw images from a drone of Kathmandu broken by the earthquake, and then, images from a drone of athletes training.
Professional success of drones is seen in cartography. A one metre wingspan with a small camera flies 40 minutes and covers hundreds of hectares. Software then assembles the thousands of photographs taken from the air to form a database impression of the area. The precision is within 5cm and better.
These 3D maps are fascinating. The United Nations Organisation used them to map Haiti after a typhoon, very quickly obtaining an accurate and perfectly up-to-date map of affected zones and of the roads that could still be used.
Archaeologists use them to make complete plans of sites, which will sometimes disappear quickly. Here too, it is fascinating to see a whole city from the memory of your computer and to move inside it like a dream, like an inhabitant of the past.
Future progress will be in precision agriculture. Flying a drone over a field enables farmers to precisely visualise how their plants develop. This makes it possible to intelligently adapt and understand how to best fertilise and cultivate the land. We waste less, for a better result.
We are only at the beginning. What we know today is that technology is evolving fast. When we started, only a few university labs and some rare startups developed drones. Now there are hundreds and this development, too, is fascinating.