One of my favorite DIY stories is of a friend of mine, Chris Andersen, who was the editor of Wired magazine and he calls himself a geek dad. He’s got five kids and so one weekend he is playing with his kids and he has a Lego Mind Storm kit, which is a kit that allows you to build a Lego device and have that device drive around. It has a little autopilot in there and he played with his kids and his kids got bored after five minutes because like, “Dad where are the lasers?” you know, “Where are the photon torpedoes?” They were literally disillusioned by the science fiction world out there.
So he pulled out the remote control airplane he had just bought and he said let’s build this and fly it and of course it hit the first tree like every airplane I’ve ever built and was demolished. So he started playing with the leftover parts in the Lego Mind Storm and the RC airplane and said, “Can I build a UAV, an autonomous aerial vehicle that’s autonomously driven by the controller system in the Lego Mind Storm?” And so he started playing with it and realized he didn’t really know that much about how to make it happen, so he went online and started looking around. He met some people he literally created a DIY community, a do it yourself community of people who would join with him to create ultra low cost UAVs.
And so they looked at what’s out there that they could model and they found out that the lowest cost UAV was being built a company called AeroVironment in California. It’s a $350,000 military grade system that flies around where you tell it to and takes pictures and so forth and they said “I wonder how cheap we could make this?” And so this community of 17,000 software engineers, hardware engineers, got together on a voluntary basis and they literally were able to design and build a system that was able to exceed 90% of the functionality of this $350,000 Raven and do it for 300 bucks, less than 1%, an extraordinary achievement.
He talks about demonetizing, taking the money out of the cost of that and Chris has now got his community aimed at demonetizing a number of other industries. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.