Maiden voyage: the value of experimental learning

Ken Reid, National Managing Partner Innovation & Digital Services
Ken Reid, National Managing Partner Innovation & Digital Services

Standing nervously on the beach I did something I had never done before…I read the instructions that came in the box.

Deciding to make my first drone flight over water was not without risk. Thankfully the instructions were only a few pages and included a few potential drone-saving gems such as the auto launch and return to home functions.

With 30 seconds of education I was ready to fly. The drone was charged, firmware had been updated, and the fact that I could not see the iPhone screen due to sunlight glare was irrelevant. It was take off time.

Now I had flown a few drones before, usually cheaper versions that my kids or their friends had got as presents. The result of all previous flights was consistent – a good take off, followed by varying degrees of panic as the drone headed into a tree, or neighbours garden.

Standing on the edge of the water, about to launch a $2,000 drone over the ocean I had similar expectations to all previous flights.

Well. Let me tell you – drones have changed.

Move the slider across for auto take off and the drone fires up, rises to 1.5m and hovers in front of me. Start to move forward and rise to about 10m in height and get familiar with what each control does – bank left/right, turn around, forward, back. Best of all, do nothing and the drone hovers – as if being held by some invisible force.

First flight – 200m along the beach, swing out over the waves, turn on video camera and get some great sweeping shots of the surfers. Zooming back along towards the rocks and a cliff I let go of controls and bingo – the drone stops and waits my next command like an obedient dog. I press the return to home button and the drone turns, and flies back, slowly descends and lands 3 metres in front of me.

After a few flights I got confident and with 10 seconds of instructions passed on the controls to my 13 year old daughter. She may be a better pilot than me.

So what did I learn about drones from my maiden voyage?

  • Yet again, if you want to consider the impact of a new technology on your business – get out and play with it. Spend 30 mins flying a drone and your perspective on what they could do will change forever. Experiential learning works – and is great fun.
  • Go buy your team a drone. For less than $2k you can get a drone that is more than capable to do some experimentation and learning.
  • Other than battery life (20 mins flying time is not enough) the tech works, the potential in areas such as health & safety, logistics, security, agriculture and more is clear – and it’s now.

And importantly, my daughter now has ‘drone racer’ as a potential future career

At KPMG we are investigating how to best use drones in the services we provide and are already discussing with clients the use of this technology in their business. Experimental learning is an important objective of what are doing in our Innovation Lab. We would love you to join us.

Ken Reid

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