Futuristic as it may sound, drones will likely one day swoop in to alter the landscape of retail. At least that’s what Jon Ollwerther, vice president of media at Measure, a “Drone as a Service” company, observed. The company provides aerial solutions for its enterprise customers, and through capturing aerial imagery and providing actionable data from it, clients can bolster their business operations.
The company’s website slogan is “We Don’t Make Drones. We Make Drones Work” — and work they do. Measure relies on highly trained, full-time employee pilots (many of whom are military veterans) to operate Measure-owned equipment in a variety of sectors — including fashion apparel.
From opportunities of creating brand images (for example, gathering imagery for clients by going to a fashion show — “At heart, our pilots and our camera operators are cinema artists,” commented Ollwerther) to eventual delivery dispatches, Ollwerther discussed how the worlds of branding, retail and drones intersect.
WWD: It seems like drone delivery will be effective for retail. What is presently standing in the way?
Jon Ollwerther: Right now in America, the Federal Aviation Administration determines aviation law and you can’t fly drones beyond visual line of sight. We expect that to change in the future, but right now that’s prohibiting a lot of drone delivery in America — that’s the biggest challenge standing in the way of drone delivery reaching the retail business market.
WWD: If drones were able to move more freely, what could they offer in terms of retail delivery?
J.O.: Retailers like Amazon are already thinking about ways that drone delivery could enhance their offerings. When you talk about delivery, when you’re looking at a company like FedEx or UPS to deliver an average package it costs dollars — with a drone, you can really move that down to cents.
The timeline also can change. Instead of a person hand-carrying and hand-delivering each box to a door, you can actually organize the structure of that delivery quite differently. You can either have one land vehicle with several other unmanned aerial vehicles that are doing deliveries autonomously, or you can have one central hub (imagine you were in a city and you had a hub that was connected to a warehouse delivering within several miles of itself).
Right now, the drone technology is available, but the infrastructure isn’t quite there for most of this. In regard to that infrastructure, it brings up questions like “Where do you land these things?” and “How do you land them?”
WWD: Drones can enhance a label’s branding, like by capturing imagery of a runway show. Might that also become a future trend?
J.O.: We’re already seeing that becoming a trend, where brands are really leveraging drones and drone service companies, specifically Measure, to actually enhance their content. What drones do is really give you a totally different perspective on the world. Specifically, for these labels, drones are giving the viewer and the buying public an entirely different view of the garment.
It’s as dramatic of a difference as seeing yourself in the mirror in a garment as looking at a candid photo of yourself walking down the street in that garment. Labels have the desire to paint themselves, their garments and their work in the best light possible and Measure’s aerial solutions are really helping to enhance their offerings.
We also work with brand activations — whether it’s a drone show, akin to what Lady Gaga did at the Super Bowl, or whether it’s something that is completely custom that comes from brand that perhaps we’ve never even considered before.
WWD: One day, do you think drones will become common for retail business?
J.O.: Yes, I do think someday drones will become common for retail. Absolutely. The technology is too good. It can dramatically reduce costs, and it can be done safely and thoughtfully. But there are too many variables to put a real guesstimate on when.
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