Quick Bio

Name: Kevin Kelly
Position: President, COO, Owner
Company: Stampede
Overtime: Raising two daughters, Kelly is passionate about women in AV. Working with Kim Lonas on Stampede’s Leadership AV program, the company provides internships to female college seniors to prepare them for careers in pro AV.

SCN: Drones have so many possibilities but are struggling to find a place in our industry. Stampede is leading the charge in pro AV with drones—what makes them so important to your company and what makes them more than just a cool toy?

Kevin Kelly: Drones offer a remarkable opportunity in emerging technology. Our customers, our channel, our industry, is the trusted advisor for audio/video, and frankly, you have to go back to how drones connect to this—it’s really about the video. More than 40 percent of all usage is driven toward film, photo, or video, and so really, there’s a big connection with our industry.

As people start applying drone technology to businesses and business processes, it creates a new tool for integrators to sell to their current client base. Drone technology creates an additional channel for consulting and labor dollars; our integrators can do the thing they do best, sell their expertise as a firm for labor dollars, and to the very customers they already have. It’s up to our integrators and our customers to adopt the technology and make it part of their own offering—and, I’ll tell you, many of them already have.

SCN: Drones have become commonplace in the film industry. Where else are you seeing drone usage?

KK: Drones are happening. You’ll even see commercials on the oil and gas industry where companies highlight their adoption of drone technology. Drones are helping them do their jobs better, faster, more efficiently, and frankly, it’s better for the environment.

Real estate is also a major category for drones—whether it’s boats or houses, you will see aerial footage of properties as part of a listing. You’re getting a perspective that you don’t regularly see, and as more of it happens, you’ll notice more so when you don’t have it, not when you do. You’re going to have a better idea of what that property looks like because of that footage, and you may make a decision, even inadvertently, based on that new perspective. Drone usage in real estate is becoming commonplace and there are even companies being launched solely for this sector of drone usage.

SCN: What is the most interesting application in which you have seen drones being used?

KK: Emergency Coverage. The United States has the most regulated airspace in the world, and for good reason. The FAA has done a fantastic job of integrating drones into that airspace and they’ve been aggressive about it. When it comes to natural disasters, whether it’s been Texas or Florida, the FAA has been granting waivers and granting them quickly so that drones can get up in the air to make assessments. Then the team on the ground can use those assessments to better plan and implement emergency solutions. It’s absolutely lifesaving. And it’s absolutely cost saving.

SCN: What is Stampede doing to train the industry on drones in terms of where/how to use them?

KK: As with any technology, training is an absolute must because that’s how you get the performance and return on investment out of the unit; it’s a really important piece of the puzzle. Stampede has a strategic alliance with Unmanned Vehicle University. We bring our customers in and teach them not only to become drone pilots but how to implement solutions for various applications. In addition to that, they can resell that very same training to their end users. Training end users gives installers and integrators the opportunity to earn additional consulting dollars as part of their overall project and commercial proposition.

SCN: One of the things I’ve noticed is a gender exclusion when it comes to drones, especially on the marketing side of the house. What is Stampede doing to promote drone usage and skill building when it comes to women in the industry?

Mark Wilkins and Kevin Kelly with Stampede’s Drone Arena at ISE 2017.

KK: As we look at the industry, we recognize the drone category (and really, all of pro AV) is a predominately male environment, and we’ve been working hard to change that. Stampede takes a proactive role in promoting gender diversity as an organization; over one-third of our employees are female, which is higher than the industry average, but we’re still working hard to get that up to parity. Last year, we started something called Leadership AV, a volunteer internship program, designed for female college seniors. We brought together seven to 10 of these women for six meetings during the spring semester where they worked with female leaders in the industry to explore different career paths. It’s meant to give the students full exposure to the industry. We even took the top two women to InfoComm 2017, where they assisted in operating our Drone Arena on the show floor. I’m most proud of the fact that this opportunity opened up the door for them to consider this industry as a career choice.

SCN: Any final words on drones?

KK: It takes time for people to understand how to leverage and how to use new technology, like drones. But it’s happening every day, more and more, and it’s happening in front of your eyes.

Megan A. Dutta puts her passion for the audiovisual industry on the pages as editor of SCN. She can be reached on Twitter @MeganADutta.