Quadcopters and the Internet of Things

August 17th, 2014 5 Comments

Jerry-rigged attachment of a 808 keychain camera to the underside of a Syma X1 quadcopter.

Low tech attachment of a 808 keychain camera to the underside of a Syma X1 quadcopter.

Editor’s note: Hey a new author! Here’s the first one, of many I hope, from Bill Kraus, who joined us back in February. Enjoy.

One of the best aspects of working in the emerging technologies team here in Oracle’s UX Apps group is that we have the opportunity to ‘play’ with new technology. This isn’t just idle dawdling, but rather play with a purpose – a hands-on exercise exploring new technologies and brainstorming on how such technologies can be incorporated into future enterprise user experiences.

Some of this technology, such as beacons and wearables,  have obvious applications. The relevancy of other technologies, such as quadcopters and drones, are more obtuse (not withstanding their possible use as a package delivery mechanism for an unnamed online retail behemoth).

Ponit Monroe

Video still taken from the quadcopter hundreds of feet above my home on Bainbridge Island, looking north to the Puget Sound and Point Monroe.

As an amateur wildlife and nature photographer, I’ve dabbled in everything from digiscoping to infrared imaging to light painting to underwater photography. I’ve also played with strapping lightweight keychain cameras to inexpensive quadcopters (yes, I know I could get a DJI Phantom and a GoPro, but at the moment I prefer to test my piloting skills on something that won’t make me shed tears – and incur the wrath of my spouse – if it crashes).

After telling my colleagues recently over lunch about my quadcopter adventures  (I already lost several in the trees and waters of the Puget Sound), Tony, Luis, and Osvaldo decided to purchase their own and we had a blast at our impromptu ‘flight school’ at Oracle. The guys did great, and Osvaldo’s copter even had a têt-à-tête with a hummingbird, who seemed a bit confused over just what was hovering before it.

Luis flying his quadcopter.

Luis flying his quadcopter in the hallway.

Osvaldo flying his quadcopter.

Osvaldo flying his quadcopter.

This is all loads of fun, but what do flying quadcopters have to do the Internet of Things? Well, just as a quadcopter allows a photographer to get a perspective previously thought impossible, mobile technology combined with embedded sensors and the cloud have allowed us to break the bonds of the desktop and view data in new ways. No longer do we interact with digital information at a single point in time and space, but rather we are now enveloped by it every waking (and non-waking) moment – and we have the ability to view this data from many different perspectives. How this massive flow of incoming data is converted into useful information will depend in large part on context (you knew I’d get that word in here somehow) – analogous to how the same subject can appear dramatically different depending on the photographer’s (quadcopter assisted) point-of-view.

In fact, the Internet of Things is as much about space as it is about things – about sensing, interacting with and controlling the environment around us using technology to extend what we can sense and manipulate. Quadcopters are simply a manifestation of this idea – oh, and they are also really fun to fly.


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5 Responses to “Quadcopters and the Internet of Things”

  1. Ultan Ó Broin (Apps-UX) Says:

    Nice post Bill! And timely… read the first item… http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/totally-excruciating-silicon-valley-problems

  2. Ultan Ó Broin (Apps-UX) Says:

    What kind of quadcopter do you recommend btw – for a beginner exploring possibilities?

  3. Jim Says:

    I love taking photos of clouds, and am often frustrated by the fact that our town is pretty flat, so while we might be surrounded by some amazing cloud formations, they are usually obstructed by houses and trees.

    I had no idea about these possibilities which you’ve mentioned in this post – the quadcopter / keychain or snazzy DJI Phantom and GoPro.

    Thanks for a very interesting post. Can I come and work in your team ;)

  4. Joyce Says:

    The Internet of Things, to me, is a way for humans to get a taste of being a super hero. Bill with his quad copter gets to be Superman. Anthony and Raymond with the beacons get to transmit useful geographic information to their coworkers (would that be mental telepathy aka Professor X from the XMen?) I don’t know everyone else’s IoT super powers yet but it is fun to think about. Thanks for the interesting post, Bill. And for the lovely picture of Puget Sound. I miss seeing its dark blue water.

  5. Joyce Says:

    @Ultan: Not sure if this is necessarily recommended, but I’m pretty sure the guys got this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0096SRMBC/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A3B2B2IJCZL9D4

    It’s only $39.99 on Amazon, which seems like a very reasonable price to me. The camera (and extra batteries) come separate though. :)

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