Cameron Chell: How Drones Link AI and Human Intelligence
CEO of Draganfly, considered the oldest commercial drone company in the world, Cameron Chell first heard about the small Canadian company while advising police departments about drones. Upon investigation, he found that Draganfly had been building light, mid-sized commercial drones since the late ‘90s. It operated in the public safety area and had an admirable history of innovation and performance.
About eight years ago, he formed an investment group that bought the company. It has now grown into the industry leading position that it has today. He says: “The culture of the organization is really all about drones for good, and how they can really benefit people and humanity.”
Draganfly is particularly proud of its record of successful search and rescue missions. In one case, a person injured in a car accident during blizzard conditions could not be located by helicopter, but a Draganfly drone with a thermal camera found the individual in only 25 minutes. Today, that drone sits in the Smithsonian Institution, credited with being the first drone to save a life.
Last year, Draganfly devised new AI software that allows cameras to determine the vital signs of people at a distance. When a drone flies over a disaster zone, it can now evaluate the vital signs of the victims: see if they are breathing; measure their heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure; and determine whether they are in shock. This information allows the rescue team to respond properly.
Projects such as this illustrate how human intelligence and AI can complement each other. AI allows people to work with data sets that expand the human capacity to think about what can be done. Cameron predicts that in the future, “AI will compensate for our lack of sensory perception. New neural paths will develop and we’ll be able to use additional parts of our brains because we’ll be able to conceptualize. Over the course of hundreds of years, we will supplement our bodies with processors and AI. I think that’s just part of our evolution.”
The future of today’s drones depends upon society’s acceptance. For a long time, he thought that routine drone delivery was not a realistic possibility. But he was wrong. He says: “We are now embracing it completely. People’s attitudes are shifting. They now believe that this is a real tool. This is something that really matters.”
Looking back, Cameron’s passion for innovation and customer service began in the small town where he grew up. His father was a rancher and butcher, and his mother was a florist. When people brought a cow in, his father was careful to slaughter it in a humane way. And people from all over the world requested flower arrangements for funerals or weddings done by his mother.
“This was in the ’60s and ’70s,” he says. “That’s just what they took pride in. I can hardly even talk about it right now without welling up, looking at how good they felt about making people feel good. So, disruptive innovation is where I just feel the euphoric hit every time it happens.”
To hear more about Cameron Chell’s work at Draganfly and the future of drones with AI, check out the More Intelligent Tomorrow episode. You can also listen everywhere you enjoy podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts.