Drones, robots, and the power of a good idea – Episode 4 of the Inflection Points Podcast

Jon Filson Senior Content Producer, Office of the CTO Published 6 Apr 2022

Great ideas can happen by accident. Entrepreneurs and business leaders of all sorts need to realize how quickly to act when that accident does happen. Light-bulb moments aren’t always planned.

Episode 4 of this season’s Inflection Points podcast brings us the story of Phillip Reece, a business leader who pivoted quickly rather than wait. Phillip, the CEO of the Canadian-based InDro Robotics, owned an airline. You must be doing pretty well to own an airline. Success is a beautiful feeling. It gives you the power to achieve your dreams and the courage to chase after them. But even when you are flying high, there is always someone chasing you in the sky.

No business is safe from disruption anymore. Several years ago, a customer told Philip, “I’m thinking of using drones instead of your planes.” Phillip’s reaction? Well, he didn’t just stroke the customer’s name out of the flight ledger and find someone else in Victoria to fill the now-empty seat on a plane.

Instead, he got curious. He did some research. And eventually, he pivoted hard. Today, he doesn’t own an airline business anymore but instead oversees a thriving robotics business. Note: There’s a twist to his story – there is an accident, a misunderstanding, shall we say, but he tells it so well that I don’t want to spoil it here. You’ll have to listen to the podcast for the details.

There’s often a significant difference between a big idea and an actual application. Many big ideas that sell or hype technology are not how tech eventually functions in the marketplace. Drones are a great example of this. Once hyped incessantly, you hardly hear about drones anymore. And yet, they are out there changing the world. We all get excited when a video of a robot hopping around goes viral; however, robots are already out there doing real work today to better our real lives. The marketing and media hype cycle, obsessed with what’s next and new, isn’t always in tune with what is happening right now in the real world.

For example, Philip once had faces built for the robots to humanize them. But he found out people didn’t really want to engage with the robots, even if they had smiley faces. He switched gears once he came to this realization. His robots are not meant to be noticeable anymore. Instead, they are built to be effective. In the podcast, he explains in detail how this works.

Today in the real world, Phillip Reece’s robots, which he calls “ground robots” or “flying robots,” already have a real impact. From search-and-rescue missions to hard-to-get-to deliveries, Phillip has found multiple use cases in and around the mountains of British Columbia.

Effective tech isn’t always glamourous. It isn’t always the new, new thing. But to me, this isn’t the central lesson of Phillip Reece’s story and this podcast episode.

Philip knew when it was time to move and then had the strength to act on his convictions. That takes something no robot has (yet)… heart.

I hope you enjoy Episode 4 of Inflection Points, hosted by Carla Guzzetti and Tim Harrison:

Jon Filson is the producer of the Extreme’s podcast, Inflection Points.

 

 

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