Where are the national drones?

Where are the national drones?

We Turks have always liked national everything, but with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government we have become very keen on nationalizing technologies. The national web, the national computer chip, the national war ship, the national car, the national mobile phone, the national tank and the national drone are all dreams of this government. Naturally, it sounds good to any Turkish citizen to have a national something if it enables us to spend less money on high-end technologies, especially if it concerns national security.

However coining a term like “national drone” and actually building it are two very different things. This government has been very good at making people dream about greater things. However, I cannot say the same about the results of these dreams. We still don’t have many of the items I listed in the beginning of the article. I have to admit I am actually very pleased to not have the national web, as it would greatly reduce the number of information sources that would be open to public. I hope that no government on earth ever finds a way to curb the Internet to build their own version of the web. However, aside from that, it would be to the Turkish interest to have a warship that is 100 percent designed and built in Turkey. The same goes for the drone.

Only Vestel took all kinds of risks and set put to match government’s dreams and they should be congratulated. Vestel has produced a phone that could be called “national” and I know they built a drone called Karayel. However, we as a country are still dependent on foreign technologies for our drones.

I believe that one of the reasons why we cannot produce technologies as effective as others is that we think too much about being national.

Vestel set out to build drones in 2010. In another part of the world, a company called Airware was founded in 2011 to do exactly the same thing and built better drones than the current ones. Vestel went after producing a “national” drone, whereas Airware tried to build a global platform and they were much more successful.

Airware, creator of a hardware, software, and cloud services platform for commercial drone development and operation, has raised $25 million in Series B financing. Airware’s aerial information platform enables companies to use highly autonomous commercial drones to collect, analyze and disseminate the data they need while complying with regulatory and insurance requirements.

This funding is part of Airware’s preparation for the commercial launch of its platform later this year and will be used to expand its engineering, sales, marketing and customer support functions.

“Commercial drones are creating a revolution in insights and countless industries around the world will soon benefit from access to aerial information that, until now, has been too difficult, dangerous, expensive or downright impossible to get,” said Airware CEO Downey. “To help organizations use drones for any commercial application, we’re building a platform that anyone can customize and build on top of. This funding will accelerate our efforts and we are extremely fortunate that high-caliber investors like Kleiner Perkins are partnering with Airware.” And just a few days ago, Airware partnered with NASA to develop a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system that will enable safe and efficient low-altitude UAS operations.

In 2011, Vestel had much better resources than a newly found startup called Airware, but just after three years, a startup outmatched a Turkish tech giant. I still believe Vestel can produce the best drones in the world, but sometimes we should aim to be global, even if we are trying to solve a national problem. Too much focus on being “national” can hinder imagination and innovation. I humbly suggest to our government to chase after dreams like the national drone and focus more on promoting innovation among Turkish companies. I am sure that our companies know what to do in terms of technological investments.