As a worldwide leader in IT and networking, Cisco is focused on pushing developments around how companies of all sizes collaborate and communicate. What role will drones play in that process though? How will UAVs impact the way people network with one another?

Those are the exact sorts of questions that the guest on episode #52 of the Commercial Drones FM podcast – Cisco’s Drone Program with Biren Gandhi – is focused on answering. Biren Gandhi, whose job at Cisco is to identify key technology trends and accelerate their adoption through acquisitions, development or partnering, connected with podcast host Ian Smith to explore how Cisco is looking at drone technology. The two have an in-depth conversation that focuses on how Cisco is set to utilize drone technology in the present to change applications and expectations in the future.

We connected with Ian to further discuss a few of the topics that were explored during the episode, including how drones will work in an Internet of Things (IoT) environment and what it means to utilize a “complete drone solution”. Read through the additional insights before or after listening to the podcast below. You can also listen to the episode on iTunes or GooglePlay.



Jeremiah Karpowicz: It’s kind of odd to think about, but drones really do represent an evolution of network products, don’t they? Drones can certainly do a lot of other things, but it feels like a logical next step for this kind of technology.

Ian Smith: I personally feel that with the proliferation of connected drones (embedded 4G LTE/5G modems with SIM card slots), they will just become another IoT device. The unique thing about them is that they will just be able to be positioned nearly anywhere in 3D space. This is absolutely going to change the way we network. Not only thinking about how the drones themselves will be connected to the internet as a whole but how they will be able to enable us—as humans—to connect to each other by serving as flying cell towers.


Along those lines, do you feel they can provide a new level of connectivity for an IoT environment that would be impossible to realize without drones in it? 

Totally. This is the trajectory in which we're heading. Since there have already been tests and real-world use cases proving that drones at altitude can connect successfully to our existing network of cell towers, all it takes at this point is a major manufacturer (DJI, if you would, please) to start making their hardware compatible to be networked. Verizon has seen this future as well, with the acquisition of Skyward and the release of "drone data plans" quite some time ago.


When you asked Biren about the timeline Cisco had around their focus on drones, he referred to it as a journey. That seemed like a great way to consider what adoption can look like, because it’s not going to look the same for everyone, is it? 

At Cisco's level, it definitely is not going to look the same. Such a massive company has a lot of luxuries that smaller companies can't afford, however, at the same time, it does also have extra challenges in that they can't move as fast. I don't expect super quick turnaround times from Cisco on anything related to drones, blockchain, fog computing, and the like, just because of how big they are. At any rate, it is incredibly exciting to get their perspective on how they value the drone industry.


I hear a lot of people talking about a “complete drone solution”, which is why it was really enlightening to hear Biren mention that while such solutions might help compel adoption, they can also lead to siloed information. Cisco is clearly looking beyond these individual complete solutions, but do you think doing so will mean too much, too soon? That is to say, will people be less reticent to embrace this interconnected future if they can’t figure out how a complete solution can work for them in the present?   

I enjoy the fact that there is a multitude of ways to integrate drones and adopt them as a solution. But again, I don't think that the level of solutions available currently is stopping industries that benefit from them most right now (construction, utilities, agriculture). As Biren said, this is a journey—it's more of a marathon than a sprint. The industry has made a lot of progress around the "complete drone solutions" but the ease of experimentation for certain sizes of companies—the smaller ones who move faster—is the greatest thing going for drones. With a variety of methods to explore for enabling pilot programs, there has been a wealth of knowledge generated thus far. Larger companies, dissimilar to Cisco, will be looking for more of the "complete drone solution" but as time inches forward, it is inevitable for them to be forced to embrace this technology if relevant to their business.