About five years ago I did some work for a defense contractor on the potential applications of drones ($$). One of the things I put together for them was a logistics system, using drones, for special ops teams. It was the perfect application for keeping dozens of dispersed teams supplied in rough terrain.
Flash forward five years and I heard a presentation by Matternet at a conference called Poptech. Matternet is a 2011 start-up that got some play at a "Solve for X" presentation at Google (solve for x is supposed to be a "think tank" for solving the worlds biggest problems). Essentially, they were pitching the same thing the defense contractor I consulted with was interested in, except for humanitarian uses. A logistics network that uses drones to overcome the problems of delivering supplies to small groups in harsh terrain (although the defense contractor's drones and systems were FAR more sophisticated than the stuff Matternet is pitching 4 years later).
However, when I heard Matternet's presentation it was apparent that their closed network approach would miss the real opportunity.
The real opportunty wasn't going to be in building a captive logistics network. That would be the same as building an AOL and a CompuServe to provide on-line connectivity. No, the real breakthrough is in building an open network built on open protocols, languages and systems, like the Internet/Web. A drone network that could be built through decentralized action/investment.
Of course, that's an easy leap to make, the tough part is actually figuring out a way to pull it off (something I wasn't able to do in 2007 when I originally came up with how to make this network). Fortunately, five years of perspective on the issue, an extensive background in aviation, and experience designing platform at an engineering level provided me with a complete picture for how to do it.
What did I do with this idea? Not much. I contacted a few friends, including a top notch scientist that had the chops to actually build the technical protocol for this network. I also scoped out a couple of blocking patents (to prevent people from locking things down and slowing innovation) for critical elements in the system.
Anyway, I put the idea into mothballs and focused on Resilient Communities. However, in the last couple of weeks, there's been a chatter among the entrepreneurial cutting edge about this type of open approach (ideas almost always hit in many places at the same time when they are meant to appear).
So, since I wasn't planning to do anything with it, I thought I would put it out there. There's lots more engineering level sophistication below this. Stuff that would make this zoooooom quickly if it is built in the right way. If I get the time, I'll share more of that.