- Katie Canales/Business Insider
- Tom Moss, the COO of drone-maker Skydio, spent years in the smartphone business before migrating over to the drone company in 2018.
- An early engineer at Google working on Android, Moss had a front-row seat to the rise of the mass-market smartphone. But he told Business Insider that “the reality is that phones have gotten kind of boring.”
- Drones, he said, are the next generation of what cameras should be.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Skydio COO Tom Moss knows a thing or two about smartphones.
He was an early engineer on Google’s Android team before 2012, when he cofounded and served as CEO at Nextbit, the startup that created the cloud-based Robin smartphone.
Gaming titan Razer – not to be confused with Motorola’s Razr, which recently debuted a $1,500 foldable smartphone – acquired Nextbit in 2017 in what was the gaming company’s first foray into mobile phones.
But about a year ago, Moss left phones for drones when he joined Skydio’s team.
“The reality is that phones have gotten kind of boring,” Moss told Business Insider.
Since the inception of the smartphone, Moss said there was an interesting initial period of rapid innovation and experimentation. Form factors and screens were getting bigger and bigger, and different technologies were being implemented. But, he said, the excitement has leveled out for the smartphone.
“Now, it’s like a really essential item for everything we do,” Moss said.
He said consumers are more commonly driven to upgrading if they simply feel it’s time for a new device or if their current screen is damaged, versus buying the next best thing out of pure excitement.
Moss had been involved with Skydio since the company’s founding five years ago. He was even Skydio’s first investor. And one of the biggest draws that pulled him into the drone market was the hands-off capability that drones offer users while still allowing them to document themselves in the midst of an experience.
“This is the next generation of basically what cameras should be,” Moss said. “It’s just flying robots that is like you have your own film crew.”
Moss may have made the industry crossover, but he said drones largely wouldn’t be what they are today without the smartphone. The navigation cameras used in the Skydio drones are essentially developed for smartphones, among other devices. And the smartphone industry overall has focused on bringing down component costs and pushing the performance of smaller, lighter, cheaper cameras, Moss said.
They’ve helped Skydio in its process of making quite the splash in the drone arena. The company’s drones are able to operate fully autonomously, meaning a user can program the drone to track and film them while the drone smartly avoids obstacles like trees. That’s a feat that Skydio’s competitors have yet to pull off, Moss said.
And in early October 2019, the company released the Skydio2, a second-generation drone that is smaller, faster, quieter, and cheaper than its predecessor. It promptly sold out within a day.
“If you can use a camera app on your phone, you can use a Skydio2 to follow you and film you,” Moss said. “And there’s nothing else that does that.”