27-year-old Arthur Holland Micheal, the founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, says that he spends his free time indulging in cycling or reading biographies, and also streaming Netflix movies. He has a strange job, such as creating a dress-copter drone for Lady Gaga for an exhibit at the Intrepid Museum in New York, and interviewing KATSU, a private street drone graffiti artist.
Since its founding in 2013, the Center for the Study of the Drone has become a worldwide source for drone research — publishing data, white papers and a weekly newsletter, in addition to running academic seminars. In 2016, the drone industry was valued at approximately $4.5 billion and is forecast to reach $21.23 billion by 2022. But there’s surprisingly little research on drones from a purely academic angle, as most white papers are sponsored by those with vested interests in the lucrative industry.
Originally, Holland Michel viewed the center as a short-term experiment, not knowing how sustainable the interest in drones would be. But then came the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks, and discourse on drones moved front and center. Researchers and the media were soon approaching Holland Michel, looking for data and quotes, and his small think tank started gaining national attention. His proudest moment, he says, was being asked to donate a drone to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2015; the center’s DJI Phantom 1 is now part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.
If Holland Michel seems young to be running such a prominent think tank, think again. The field of drone research — drones themselves, in fact — is so nascent that the people in it tend to be youthful, says Tim Kidwell, editor of Drone360, a bimonthly magazine. Kidwell’s impressed with the volume and quality of the work the center publishes and praises Holland Michel’s studied approach to the drone world. However, he cautions that their data isn’t always accurate. “The [center] does the best job they can with the information that’s out there,” Kidwell says, “but in a lot of the cases, it’s flawed information and that skews their data — but it skews everyone’s data.” An example would be the current valuation of the drone industry — depending on where you look, it can range as high as $127 billion.
You can check out Lady Gaga’s flying dress in the video below:
Image via OZY