CES2017: How Can Drones Contribute to Corporate Training Solutions?


The Consumer Electronics Show is held in Las Vegas the first week of every year. It’s over 150,000 people flooding the convention center, hotels, casinos, and streets for 4 days. To speak of this event as an insane exercise in logistics is an understatement. It’s a crazy experience, but a fantastic look into the future of technology within every sector of business you can imagine. The overwhelming volume of booths is hard to put into words. Consider 5 ATD International Conference and Expos stacked on top of each other and you will be imagining about half of the Consumer Electronics Show. Yea, it’s huge.

And since it is the biggest technology event of the year, you can find reviews and key announcements on all of your favorite tech sites. And if you don’t know what those are here is a short list:

When I’m at these non-training events I’m always looking for 3 things:

  1. The obviously applicable tech,
  2. the tech with training application potential, and
  3. the rest of the tech helps me visualize the future of training development.

Some of the very cool new shiny tech sticks, grows, and becomes mainstream. Some of it never gets past the prototype. But seeing what’s possible, and how the creators of our time are thinking about applying technology, is what helps me craft the vision I see coming for training, and learning & development.

In this first post I’ll focus on drones. And yes, I believe they are applicable in the world of training and learning & development.

Drones vs. Robots

What do you picture when someone says “drone”? My guess is that you either imagine the multi-propellered consumer helicopter thingies, or the un-manned killing machines reported on the news. And “robots”? The term robot seems to mostly reference any device that looks, at least a little, humanistic, or can do things a human might normally do.

I think the main distinction is in control. Most drones are controlled by a human(s), where as robots often function on there own. Well, maybe not completely on their own. Robots would fall into the category of “set it and forget it”, where as a drone would have no logic to function on its own and would need a person to control it. but what happens when drones begin to fly on their own? Are they no longer drones? Do they become robots? Does it matter? I’ll leave that up too you.

So, why am I droning on about drones? CES had a significant number of drone products this year. Some of the businesses specialized in drones and older traditional companies, like Poloroid, are now in the business of selling drones. I had no idea Poloroid now sold TVs and smartphones as well. But the fact is drones are being created for many many different use cases. There are flying drones, and drones that dive under water in search of fish. Some drones need to be controlled while others are autonomous. Some fit in the palm of your hand while others could pick you up off the ground.

There were so many different types of drones at CES that it’s impossible to see the future of training without them as a part of specialized training solutions.

Are Drones Important for Corporate Training?

I believe any device that enables visibility and communication across the globe has the potential for being used as a training tool. And if that device can virtually take someone to locations otherwise inaccessible, that device then becomes a big deal for many business reasons, including training.

Many training professionals that spend their day creating training for white collar office workers see no use for drones in corporate training. I can’t think of a reason to use drones to teach banking software, or spreadsheet skills either. But let’s not forget about the legions of workers who are out in the field doing their work: Home health workers, construction workers, repair technicians, equipment installers, truck drivers, etc. Live real time video streaming from a drone now begins to look more appealing and having a use for training.

Consider a company like USIC. They locate over 60 million underground utilities to prevent damage during digging projects across the US and Canada. This is done with a fleet of drivers and trucks working at different onsite locations. Imagine a USIC worker deploying a small drone into the air on a job site streaming live video to an expert/trainer in another city. Or simply getting a birds eye view of the property for themselves to better visualize the work that needs to be done. The drone could even follow the worker around while the worker is on the phone with a trainer. Live streaming video can be done from a smartphone, but when a drone is handling the live video stream that frees up the technicians hands to do the work while being coached.

I’m not advocating anyone start www.dronElearning.com. (Although, the domain is apparently for sale: $1,435) Like all new technologies, drones are not a new tool for eLearning. They are a new tool for the capture and delivery of content that can be used for training purposes. They are another tool in your tool box. And not all training professionals have the same toolbox.

Read more about how USIC trains its workforce by downloading the case study report. And no, they currently do not use drones. I only use there business case as an illustration of a potential use case for drones in training.

Can you think of a use case for drones in training? Let me know what you think.