Episode 185 - Fighting Wildfires with AI-Powered Drones

Every year, wildfires result in the loss of thousands of lives, millions of acres, and hundreds of billions of dollars. But the powerful combination of AI and drone technology can change how we fight wildfires and mitigate the loss of life, property, and forests.

Data Blanket is a Seattle-based startup developing small fleets of AI-powered drones that autonomously carry out missions for assessing wildfires and relaying vital information to commanders. The data is used to map the perimeter of a fire, overlay locations of firefighting crews and equipment, and ultimately contain the blaze by creating boundaries.

We sat down with Omer Bar-Yohay, Co-Founder & CEO, Data Blanket, to discuss his extensive knowledge and experience in mobility, the future of AI-powered drones, and his passion for electric and eVTOL aircraft technology which won him the inaugural SAE Sustainable Aviation Award in 2022.

SAE Awards honor the very best in mobility, recognizing the extraordinary achievements of executives, engineers, students, and educators. If you want to learn more, serve on a selection committee, or nominate a deserving colleague---or yourself---send an e-mail to awards@sae.org.

Meet Our Guest

Co-Founder & CEO, Data Blanket
Winner, 2023 SAE Sustainable Aviation Award in Honor of Ramesh Agawal

Omer Bar-Yohay is an Israeli entrepreneur, founder, and former CEO of Eviation Aircraft, maker of Alice, the world's first all-electric commuter aircraft that flew in late 2022. Omer has had over a decade-long military career in Israel, followed by work in the defense and auto industry in Israel and Italy. As a student of both history and physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he has been a prolific thinker, storyteller, and pathfinder in the early days of the electric aviation sector.

Omer collaboratively and openly leads the way for new alliances in performance matrices and certification paths through his involvement in GAMA and the different standard committees that created a new path to certify electric planes. He has significantly contributed to the advancement of electric and eVTOL aircraft technology. His leadership and innovation have earned him recognition in the industry, and he is highly regarded for his contribution to sustainability and the future of aviation. He finally joined the VTOL race as the leader of the global activity of Autoflight, developing a lift and cruise configuration eVTOL.

He is the Co-Founder & CEO of Data Blanket, a small startup that was fortunate enough to attract a team second to none in computer vision, drone autonomy, spatial computing, and UI and communications. The team’s vision is to build a system to change how we fight wildfires.


Grayson Brulte:

Hello, I'm your host, Grayson Brulte. Welcome to another episode of SAE Tomorrow Today, a show about emerging technology and trends and mobility with leaders and innovators who make it all happen. On today's episode, we're absolutely honored to be joined by Omer Bar-Yohay, co-founder and CEO, Data Blanket.

On today's episode, he'll discuss the advantages of fighting fires with AI powered drones. We hope you enjoy this episode. Omer, welcome to the podcast. 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Thank you so much for having me. 

Grayson Brulte:

It's great to have you here because you have deep experience in the eVTOL industry, but more importantly, you're doing good by solving a major problem. Wildfires cause catastrophic damage and you're working on a solution to fix it. Why focus on the solution with the niche of fighting fires with AI?

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Oh, wow. That's again, out of the gate with you. We have to talk about this. I think it's one of the greatest problems of our time and it's getting bigger. And you started off by saying I'm doing good by solving. I wish I were. I'm trying. I'm trying. The team around me at Data Blanket is trying. There are teams all over the world trying to rethink about it.

But I'll give you just two numbers in America alone. The average in the last seven or even 10 years now has been close to 10 million acres lost every year. And in terms of global emissions, wildfire alone accounts for roughly 5 percent of global emissions. Now, I come from the aviation industry, and I've been working since mid-2014 to try and decarbonize regional transport at the, at aviation aircraft.

I did eVTOL for auto flight. I've been embedded in what's happening there for the last, almost a decade. The entire aviation industry on a bad year is two and a half percent of global emissions. And if there is anybody who knows how much money goes into fixing that, it's me. I think it's a huge problem.

I think it's not a niche in any way, shape, or form. And I'm, I couldn't be more passionate in trying to make this different. And, yeah, I love it. I love it. I think it's gonna, fall in love with the problem. We really love the problem. We have a whole team. a whole herd of solutions, we're going to fix it.

Grayson Brulte:

How are you working to solve the problem with Data Blanket? 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

So Data Blanket started off and is aiming to go to market with just first and foremost digitizing the space. So allowing the tactical incident commander to basically launch a swarm of completely autonomous drones to identify, map, and eventually communicate what's happening around them first.

Now I'm saying first because the next steps are obviously fighting fire, right? So either through communicating with more traditional Aerial and ground suppression assets, or operating sci fi looking robotic helicopters? This is the open end of this question. We have a lot of stuff we're working on. We have a lot of stuff we're working on with partners.

But I think the first step is to digitize the space, to create this digital twin in real time. And the way to do it, or the way we believe we should do it, is by giving. The tactical commander, the people on the ground actually fighting fire, actually, being the first responder per se, the first person on the scene, given them that kind of autonomous air force in their back pocket to be able to operate, and that's already working, and it blows your mind, you should fly over, come see it.

Grayson Brulte:

Is your system trained like a FLIR system? You're looking for heat so they're, they can identify what the circumference of the fire, perhaps there's a FLIR up somewhere and they know how to send resources to that area?

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Yeah. Yes, and yes, the idea is that we have digitized and completely automated two things. We've built what we call a synthetic pilot. It's not an autopilot. It doesn't fly the pattern you want it or react to traffic. It's a synthetic pilot in the sense that it's an AI non deterministic system that sees what's happening around it, understands a situation, or receives information about a situation, and then makes decision about what's the right next step to do based on a few parameters and grades.

So think about it as Right now, the most important thing you need to do is to figure out a safe place to land. So you look at the ground, you navigate to areas that are suspicious or suspects as potential landing spots, and then you find the right place and then you land there, right? So that's something a pilot would do.

The same goes for identifying and mapping fire. So how about you look at an area around you, and our system today covers more than 28 square miles, so it's a significant area. and you map that area or identify whatever is suspicious there, meaning if you see smoke, you'll go to the source of it. If you see an actual fire, you'll start mapping it.

The way you see it is multi spectral and multi agent, meaning the system will Autonomously ask for more resources and operate the resources. It has thermal cameras sensors that are just optical cameras, even microphones and either and other hyper spectral analysis tools to get to the point that you can identify what you've got.

And really give the user or the consumer of that information insight and not just the picture. So what we actually have or had to build was not just a pilot who could fly a single drone and then fly them in formation and in swarms that do what they need to do. But also to automate the person looking through the lenses of the different sensors, right?

So you're actually creating two very separate AI systems. One is responsible for the airspace and the assets flying. It's a multi agent problem that's constantly solving. And the other is just a very capable computer vision system that allows you to understand what you're seeing. And drive the entire operation based on that.

These are the two core technologies we've developed. And putting them together around Wildfire just felt like the right thing to do first. So it's a huge problem. It's an emergency. You care less there about privacy issues about issues of how do you mitigate the airspace with other players. It's an emergency.

Let's first see what we have. But the way I see it long term. This could be key to how we operate drones and other kinds of robots in years to come. And that's why, for me, Data Blanket is so fascinating. 

Grayson Brulte:

Are you subject to the FAA line of sight rules when you're launching this? And if you want to call it an emergency zone, a disaster zone, are all those, do those rules apply to this?

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Absolutely. Obviously one of our biggest concerns here is safety. Of both the event itself and its surrounding and the FAA is a big part of that. There is a lot happening above a fire, especially when those fires grow. You have helicopters, you have fixed wing aircraft, you have trained personnel who is actually participating and has beacons and ADS-B transponders and whatever, what have you.

But you also have the odd general aviation pilot without an electrical system who doesn't want anybody to know where he is, but he wants to help. And what we're working on very strongly right now are a whole array of waivers that basically create the ability to do two things. One is to operate this system without a pilot.

Rather with a safety operator, so a 107 operator that is not flying, it doesn't have sticks, there is nothing to fly, the system flies itself. And also to be able to operate with a single operator up to 8 drones, which is what we do today, and going forward I assume will grow to bigger swarms. The next step is really beyond visual line of sight, so Actually, one of the waivers that we need that one too many.

So one operator too many drones is already in place. The FAA has accepted our request for that specific waiver based on the system's capabilities and proven tests. And the next step we're Working on is beyond visual on a site. It's not unheard of. We've seen systems that have received these permits before, and I believe we'll get there within a few months.

Grayson Brulte:

It's very positive. I'm thinking about this. If I'm in fire command, where's the data from your drones going? Is it going into fire command so that the firefighters and the responders there can know, okay, we have to go two clicks to the north or to the south. And they can see all that data in real time. Is it going to a command center? Where does that data go? 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

That's a great question. So one of the biggest problems with firefighting today is that fire doesn't really care about jurisdiction and it doesn't care too much about the positioning and deployment of your cellular networks or other communication solutions.

And one of the things we're solving with our system is just that. So we decided that we want to take the side of communicating the information and receiving information and not make money out of it. This is open, meaning everything we have goes to the ground control station, which is a kind of Portable thing that sits on the back of an incident commanders’ truck or on the fire engine.

You can install it on whatever more or less and from there we'll have or we do have several ways to communicate to the rest of the world, right? So we're basically connecting this to the internet, either via the 5G network present, or through Starlink, which we're using today. And the idea is that this system is always connected and always open.

So I don't care if you're... Running my app as a hotshot who had to jump ahead of a fire and all you have is, every once in a while connectivity through your phone or you're getting this through some sort of data link over VHF or you're sitting in some sort of command room and you have proper connectivity to everything, whatever the system sees will be dumped to all of these users in real time all the time.

And the idea is that whenever you have assets that can either report or can make sense of information, you want to share it with them, because it really takes a village. These fires are extremely challenging events to manage. I've had a fairly long military career before I went into tech, and If there is one thing that was burning in the bones of myself and other people who were involved at Data Blanket from day one is that a lot of the stuff that we're used to thinking about as technology and special operations, modus operandi, concept of operations, is not done enough with wildfire suppression and with firefighting And it's not because people don't want to.

It's just because they don't have the tools for true joint operations all the time. And we're trying to help us get there. 

Grayson Brulte:

Is latency an issue? So you mentioned using use Starlink. And in some cases, you sell it as latency become an issue as your systems deployed in the wild.

Omer Bar-Yohay:

First of all, it's a good question. To give you a straight answer, we don't know yet. We are infinitely faster than anything else out there today. Because today a lot of the work is done in the most analog, non, if someone is reading a form they just filled in the field, which is called size up. If someone is reading a size up report out loud through VHF to Dispatch, and Dispatch is then typing it in and sending it to someone, the latency is way greater than my Starlink issues.

So we are leaps and bounds ahead of that. The question is, what is really going to be the capability of the system, for example, to build live Dynamic weather models, local weather models that we're using right now to predict where the fire is going to go. So we're doing this today on a fairly capable computer on the back of our product.

There are those supercomputers with UC San Diego and in the University of Columbia and with NASA. Folks are building really smart models of fire, but they care about what's going to happen, half a day or a day from now. We care about the next half hour, three hour, six hours. So how do we integrate this?

How do we handshake with a lot of smart people and great equipment out there? I think there's going to be some questions about latency there. And it's yet to be proven because we need to build a lot of systems deploying and see where it goes. 

Grayson Brulte:

But you're in the field learning the weather models are going to make a huge difference because the wind could turn at a moment's notice and blowing to the east or blowing to the west that will impact where the fire is going to go.

While you're learning, you brought on Class A investors, Bill Gates breakthrough energy ventures, Eric Schmidt's innovation endeavors. They're on board as investors, two world class technologists, two world class investors. How are you planning to scale with these world class investors on board? Now, we look to build out the weather models. Where are you planning to go with this? 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

First of all you hit that nail on the head. We are fortunate. I’m super fortunate. I really can't stress this enough. This has not been a great 18 months to start anything from a kind of economy and fundraising perspective, but we did. And while this is not a trivial go to market, I was joking just the other day that, I've been selling airplanes to airlines and looked at cell cycles that took years and this is way worse, but we were fortunate enough to get BEV and innovation endeavors in very early.

I think they were visionaries in the way that they analyze the problem again. I love meeting investors, engineers and leaders who are interested in the field and learn the problem in depth and try to avoid falling in love with solutions just yet. And I think they were just that the way we intend to scale is actually very much bottom up in the sense that we're out there Working with a few very forward-looking fire departments and those fire departments are definitely our users.

I'm not sure long term there are customers, but they're definitely our users. And what we need here are those. Longstanding, capable, experienced, but also patient investors who are able to look at where we're going to understand that this solves a significant part of the problem that the users, the people actually fighting fire, love it, influence it, put it to work, and then to build the business model going forward.

I believe that there is money invested in this. I think there is a lot. Look, think of the Impact on the economy in a greater scale. Think of the world's well, at least the nation's largest insurers. not selling fire protection to one of the biggest markets on the planet, California. How does that add up, right?

So there's definitely, there are definitely huge money pockets here where data could play a significant part and we're aware of it and we're working in that direction. But I think first comes first, we need to build a very capable system that's as reliable as a signaling mirror and to make sure that our users love it, put it to use.

And this is how and the byproduct of us getting the data and analyzing and being, the best out there and understanding what we're seeing. is awesome. How do you monetize that part? Yet to be seen. 

Grayson Brulte:

You hit the nail on the head business models. We've been talking a lot about Data Blanket, your backgrounds in eVTOLs and you've been one of the most outspoken and making, in my opinion, the most important part of the conversation around eVTOLs, the business model.

You say without the right business model, without revenue, without profits, it's never going to scale. In your opinion, what is the eVTOL business model? 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Wow that's a rough one. I think we have an eVTOL, sorry, a VTOL business model that works. And that's the helicopter market. And I think whenever you try to say that something's going to be turned on its head, what I want to hear is why.

Either from a technology perspective, from a social acceptance perspective, from a sales perspective, just because it did amazingly, from a, problem solving perspective, what, from which angle does it become a thing that suddenly sells new products? Ten or a hundred-fold what it's selling today for solving the same problem, right?

So if you want to go over traffic in Sao Paulo in the morning, you can do it with a helicopter. If you want to do this, if you want to get from JFK or from Newark to to Manhattan, you can do it. It's a few hundred bucks and a noisy ride, but yeah you'll make it quite quickly. And the question is, why would this happen any differently?

And I think what the people that I'm talking to... And our very strong advocates of no, this is going to explode in ways no one understands have in mind is something like the Jetsons, we all hop onto something and it seems seamlessly, safely and quietly flies somewhere. And then it's awesome.

By the way, I don't disagree. I just think it will happen so much differently and so much more slowly than people think. I think what we're going to see first are quieter, cleaner, and potentially safer to operate machines that we will feel a bit more comfortable operating near our communities. But they're still not going to be dramatically cheaper.

They're not going to be dramatically different in numbers than what we have today in the helicopter market. And that really drives the conversation. So if you're building something that either has a very deep pocket as a potential client, something very luxurious that people can afford, or if you're building something that's going to be somehow sponsored, to an extent by a different part of the business.

So you're feeding into the airline business and they're gonna want to capture some of the revenue that today taxis capture or whatnot. You could justify very limited operations on these machines, but the problem is that You need to still justify the multi billions of dollars in bringing new machines to market, and that's the tough part.

I believe that none of the eVTOL players that's working today, even the great ones, we can go in depth there if you like I think none of them, is building the machine that will actually turn a profit for them right now. I think they're all building their go to market offerings. Some of them have a really good chance.

I think some of them will make themselves carve out a niche that will eat some of the market of light helicopters. I think you'll be surprised what you'll see out of light helicopters when that happens. But I do not envision tens of thousands of these rolling off production lines in the next decade. And that's saying a lot to the business models of a lot of companies out there. 

Grayson Brulte:

It's saying a lot to the business model, and I can't tell you how many investor pitches I've been in, conversations, financials I've read, where we want to be cheaper than Uber, and then there's some that are crazier than crazy, we want to be cheaper than public transit.

I start running the numbers, you look at the R& D cost, you look at the development cost, you look at the FAA certification cost, you look at your insurance cost, you look at your energy cost, you look at all these costs, and you can give hypothetical numbers into your model. There's no way that you're getting to, to below the cost of an Uber, and when you confront, oh, nope, this is the way it's gonna be.

Yeah. I don't understand why there's not a focus. On the luxury end of the market more when Tesla started the roaster with a luxury product luxury product and then look at how in ground vehicles, safety, all the data crystal started 100 plus thousand cars and work their way down as it became cheaper. But yet there's this big push to start in the low end of the market where the economics don't work on day one. 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

That's a fantastic question. I think, first of all, I think there are some players who are looking at the higher end of the market and, technologies aside and what I agree with or disagree with, or I guess what physics agrees with or disagrees with aside for a second, some users or sorry some OEMs are building machines that could appeal To the helicopter user today, or even beyond that, I think Joby's doing this to an extent.

I think Lilium is for sure doing this. Archer is doing this to an extent. And what, the way I measure it is all around what happens if, so I, what people say their vision and their goals are, even in investor pitches. is a choice. It's game theory choice. Maybe it's easier to raise billions of dollars if you say, Oh, everybody's going to use this and I'm going to make 10,000 a year of something.

I'm not sure I believe them to the extent. Or at least not at the time scale that they're talking about. I think we're going to see a kind of crawling adoption in areas that can afford it. I think we're going to see that kind of crawling adoption, maybe even bias towards area that incentivize. Either low noise or low or zero emissions.

Noise is at the end another kind of emission. So you can say, hey, you can't operate a normal rotary wing, a normal helicopter over Manhattan because it's too noisy, but you could a Joby or an Archer or a... So yeah, that, that would make for an interesting offering. But then show me your company, show me the program, and show me how this makes sense if you only make 500 a year.
Show me a helicopter maker that makes 500 planes a year. That's actually a fairly successful program, not to say the most successful program on the planet right now. At 4 million dollars a piece, give or take, and at 500 a year, does your... program turn a profit? And if the answer is no, this only makes money when it scales.

There is a lot that needs to happen for this to scale. Infrastructure wise, aerospace, aerospace management wise social acceptance. Are we ready for this? And by the way, in a sense, maybe even this only scales when it's autonomous because how many pilots have we got? So I think this is a really interesting question.

I think it's a great time to be in aviation because this question is going to unfold in front of us in the next decade. And what's not to like? Let's see where it goes. 

Grayson Brulte:

There's a lot to and another thing, I'm going to throw another ingredient into the blender here. The cost of labor is going up. We saw the UPS teams negotiations, $170,000 pay increase over five years.

Then we saw what's happening with the UAW, the big three possibly all going on strike at once. We see the pilot unions demanding more money. Labor is going one way, it's going up. So you have to factor in a. 30, 40, 50, 60 percent labor increase into your models, and you put in the model, a lot of these things are going to change.

And that's why I like what you're doing with Data Blanket, because you're solving a problem and you're running them autonomously. When you were developing data blanket, how much attention was put into the real business model when you started crunching the numbers to figure out how you're going to build this business?

Omer Bar-Yohay:

I think there is a healthy and very much needed dissonance between your idea and, falling in love with the problem and being able to maybe galvanize a small team around it and tinker with it a bit. And then the transition to something that's a business. Sometimes it's not the same person.

Sometimes it's not the same decade, especially in aviation. I think a Data Blanket. What we started with was the idea that we could create this synthetic pilot. We could create this ability to look through a camera and not have a person look through it. Create this kind of very capable computer vision vector and a synthetic pilot vector and put them together and have something that really runs itself in the deeper sense of the word.

And then coming out of the garage, literally coming out of the garage, we had a sit down me and the folks that that kind of eventually became the team that started data blanket and Okay, what is this good for? There was this stage and we really wanted this to be good for wildfire fighting and we're hammering down the business model for the last year now.

Now I, by the way, I don't think it's very, it's not rocket science. It's, there is enough money in the fire departments to afford this. Maybe not up front, go to market. It's not going to be very fast but it's. There is kind of line of sight to a business model, so it's not that we had to iterate too much.
I think it's that tension that really That, that's in the heart of innovation because you need to be dreaming something and then you need to find a way to anchor this to business. And yes, definitely, if in the very beginning we were thinking, Hey, no problem. We'll operate it with our own people.

We'll actually become a big HR company when we grow, we'll have hundreds, if not thousands of stations. The more we understood that there is this huge labor crisis within. firefighting. There is this huge and it's not about the cost. It's just about the availability of people who are trained to do this.

And if they're trained to fight fire, let them fight fire. Let's automate whatever we can automate. So it did drive some of the decision making around the business model, but not all of it. But I do agree with you that trained and let's say sustainable and consistent labor Is a huge factor of whatever company trying to build a growth model.

And some of these companies in the eVTOL world, going back to our previous topic, are companies that are built like software companies in the sense that they need to grow indefinitely to really justify the investment. And that's going to be hard with the kind of people you need to put in place.

Grayson Brulte:

It's gonna be hard, but you've been there, you've done it, you were the former president of Autoflight International, and CEO of Autoflight USA, and you had a lot of accomplishments, and one of those accomplishments you had... Was pretty special as you were awarded the inaugural SAE sustainable aviation award for extraordinary contributions the advancement of electric and eVTOL aircraft technology That's impressive Are you mentoring individuals now based on this because if i'm starting an eVTOL startup I'm getting your phone number looking you up on LinkedIn say, okay Omer, give me the 101, the straight on the business model. I don't want to be a software company that has to grow forever. I want to be a sustainable business. I want to have world class investors like Breakthrough Energy and Innovation Endeavors. Please help. 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Oh my God. First of all, careful what you wish for because you're going to hear a lot of bad humbled. I think, the recognition I got from SAE was probably in hindsight to a lot of work that was done collaboratively with, still with aviation aircraft and with autoflight and especially around I think, you being out there and telling the world what we're actually doing and trying to be collaborative and pre competitive about it.

I think that's what, that's the thing that was really recognized. I think JoeBen and Kirk from Joby Aviation and Icon Aircraft at the time, and myself, and the amazing people at GAMA, the General Aviation Manufacturing Association. People that started off all of these committees that eventually created the standards that define how we do electric propulsion aviation, define how we do certification.

These are the people, and I don't think any one of us... could have a proper claim for fame there. It's all about, yeah, I was open enough with my failures and they were open enough with theirs and it actually went somewhere. So I think that's the important piece there. Do I mentor? Oh my God. I try to answer as often as I can when people ask.

I try to look at things, from my perspective, which I guess has its advantages and disadvantages like anybody else's. I do talk to a lot of upstarts in the field, so people do reach out and we do talk a lot. I think it's a very exciting thing to look at a new company trying to figure out its way in this market.
But broader, I think it's the best time. You could have hoped for in the last two or three generations to be either an aerospace engineer or a leader in an aerospace company and to look at tech from the manipulation of atoms. And not only the manipulation of electrons, if to start moving stuff.

I think this is where tech is going. It's slower, it's harder, it's more expensive. It actually requires talent in figuring out mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering, and building things. Program management is a different scale. But... I think the fact that it's happening is a blessing, because it means that we're really solving bigger problems and more significant problems than cat videos, and it's about time.

Grayson Brulte:

It's having real world impact. There's a lot of young engineers that want to have that real world impact. They're looking at what Archer's doing, they're looking at what Joby's doing, they're looking at what Mark Moore at Whisper is doing, and said, Okay. I want to enter the space. For that young engineer that's listening to this that says, Okay, I'm fascinated. I want to explore a career in eVTOL. What advice would you have for them? 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

I think it really depends on your character. But I'll give you two avenues here. And the first one is joint for whatever character you have. Go study science. I don't care if it's engineering, electrical, mechanical, electronics, software, aerospace, physics, math.

Go have a serious scientific basis. And If you can't, because it's not your talent, go into design, go into operations, go into the periphery of those because there is a lot of room for that as well. Go become a technician. There is a need for anybody who can do anything that actually manifests in the real world.

And that's something that people often don't realize. Oh, I'm not very good at math. I can't do... No, you can do plenty. And... There is a need for plenty. So start off with believing that you can be part of this almost no matter which avenue you've taken, but take an avenue. Pick something you can't let go and be very good at that.

Once you're out of school or once you're looking to really engage, there it's really a matter of character because it goes in two very different directions. Some people really flourish In a small dynamic startup or contractor environment, they need to be, masters of none, but capable of doing plenty.

And it's really this position that, that moves startups when they're small. So if you're looking at the first 10, 20, 15 employees in a company that's trying to build something in the real world, mechanical engineers will suddenly do some software. Control engineers will do everything else. So if you like that kind of, I'm not the deepest learner, find a company that's small and growing and try to find really inspiring and good bosses in these companies because they will be the ones that kind of help you navigate your own career going forward.

And it will be a ride. It's amazing. The other type of people feel more comfortable in a structured environment because they love digging deep. And I've had a lot of those folks in different companies. They're fun because they will get, they will as a manager, they will make you rest assured that you will get something perfect coming up.

Now, in my mind, the best way to grow your skills, if you feel that you're that kind of character, is actually to start off in a big company. even in a position that's maybe not as rewarding, even if you're just, fixing some, some nuts and bolts on a design that's been perfect for the last two years, you're just making it perfect er.

Even if that's the case, it's a perfect place to study. And when you start there, and you become really the expert that you could be growing and going to these places that need that expertise at a later stage will put you in either. specialist positions or mid-level management that will make you much more influential on the designs of these startups.

But the ability to jump between the two, I think is the defining moment for most careers. It's like, how do you see transition between being established and expertise? to let's make things happen. And if you can do both, you're going to be super excited and happy with your life. If you can do just one, but you found that one, you're going to be super excited and happy with your life. So either way, start with something strong and just Go for it. Pursue. 

Grayson Brulte:

You roll your sleeves up and it's fun to learn a little about a lot and then have a specialty, a little bit, a lot, and you look at the ecosystem. Today we spoke about the drone markets. We spoke about the eVTOL markets, two different markets, two different skill sets.

However, those skill sets can complement each other from a market perspective. How do you see the EVTOL and drone markets complimenting each other as they grow and mature over the decades to come? 

Omer Bar-Yohay: 

I think there are a lot of angles to this question because they complement, but they also contradict to an extent you want to manage the skies very safely, and especially when you have more and more traditional flights happening.

And potentially we're going to have some growth in regional and urban flights happening because, and thanks to eVTOLs, but you also want delivery drones and you also want everybody to play with their toy drone whenever they want to, and you also want the whole thing. To seamlessly work together so that no one gets hurt and you can both have fun and, maybe have some recreational use that's that we're not thinking about right now and so on.

So I think there's going to be a lot leaning on the way we manage the skies and the way we just keep safe. And that should be a leading principle whenever you build something that takes a step towards. Either autonomy or just new and broader uses of the airspace. I think that's something we're trying to be very conscious of in data blanket, obviously.

But if there is one thing that's no news to the industry. Is what I just said, because they're, they have been, we've been working since next gen since putting new technology into the general aviation cockpits in the late 90s through rethinking part 23 through the work that NASA is doing around the NASA and airspace management.

There is so much happening in this field, it's just not moving at the pace we're used to. It's not the adoption rate that you're going to see from, from the chat GPTs or the TikToks of the world. And that's okay. That's the way it works. Sometimes as consumers, trying to crank out your latest and greatest DJI or whatever other drone you have, we're not as patient, but unfortunately in the real world we will have to be because some things happen.

They still happen more quickly than they used to, but some things just can't happen both as fast as in the digital world and as safe as we demand for them to be. 

Grayson Brulte:

You highlighted recreational use cases, and for a listener that's listening to it, for me personally, I would love to see a recreational use case of an autonomous drone that when I go surfing could do shark spotting and I can get a real time alert on my watch.

Watch out, there's a pack of sharks out there. That's safety. You could potentially save a shark bite. I don't want to get bitten by a shark, so I knock before I go surfing later. But, that is a big thing, and that's a recreational use case that could have an impact. You're having an impact on wildfires.

Individuals such as Joby and Archer that are moving individuals are having an impact. This entire drone, eVTOL, Ecosystem is going to have an impact. There will be their little niches and they will overall have a positive impact. It's going to create a lot of jobs. We're going to have some really wonderful young engineers that are going to invent something in the future.

That's going to be really cool. And if they listen to you, Omer, they're going to build a business model that's sustainable. That equals profitable, and then they can get acquired and go build their next company. Omer, this has been a fascinatingly fun conversation. As we look to wrap up this insightful conversation, what would you like our listeners take away with them today?

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Oh, wow. First of all, thank you. It has been fun. I think the most significant thing that I can say in reflection of what we were just discussing, there is a lot happening in engineering. There is a lot happening in science. And there is a shift to solving real world painful problems. And you know what? Find that thing. It doesn't matter if you're a college graduate or in high school or an entrepreneur or a veteran CEO in whatever. If you can find that thing. that you just can't drop, and it solves something significant. Please do it. Now is the time. It doesn't matter, the last 18 months were not perfect for starting companies and raising capital, but guess what?

A lot of people did. It's never, oh, bad timing. Find the thing you can't let go and just pursue it. I think that's the only piece of advice I'm trying to live by. So yeah, let's do that. 

Grayson Brulte:

There is a lot happening. Go build. Go change the world. Have a positive impact. Today is tomorrow. Tomorrow is today. The future is a sustainable business model. Omer, thank you so much for coming on SAE Tomorrow Today. 

Omer Bar-Yohay:

Thank you so much for having me.

Grayson Brulte: 

Thank you for listening to SAE Tomorrow Today. If you've enjoyed this episode and would like to hear more, please kindly rate, review, and let us know what topics you'd like for us to explore next.

Be sure to join us next week for another episode of SAE Tomorrow Today Unplugged. I'll share my thoughts and insights into markets in the future of mobility.

SAE international makes no representations as to the accuracy of the information presented in this podcast. The information and opinions are for general information only SAE international does not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned in this podcast.


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