#Asia #Japan 117: Japan’s Secret Strategy for Global Drone Domination


Blue Innovation attracted a lot of international attention last year when they announced the  T-Friend done system.

This dystopian drone flies around offices after hours reminding staff not to work overtime, and taking pictures of those who violate overtime policy so that management can be alerted.¥

We’ll talk about this particular done, of course, but Blue Innovation’s technology is much broader and is making an impact an many more important, if perhaps less visible, areas. Founder and CEO Takayuki Kumada explains the early days of the company and why they decided to pivot into drones in the first place.

We also talk about the future of drones in Japan and globally, about what’s really holding the industry back, and why the Japanese government crackdown on drones might have actually forced the industry to focus on a very specialized and very lucrative niche.

It’s a great conversation, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes

What is a drone integrator, and why are they important?
How Blue Innovation pivoted from environmental consulting to drones
How drones navigate with no WiFi no GPS and no light
What kinds of jobs drones should not do
Why flying drones make more sense than swimming or crawling drones
Which industries will be most affected by drones
What’s really holding drones back
How Japan can overcome China’s lead in drones

Links from the Founder

Check out everything Blue Innovation is doing
Blue Innovation’s Facebook page
Japan Drone 2018 on the Blue Innovation blog
Friend Takayuki on Facebook

 Leave a comment
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs.

I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

One of the ideas I’ve talked about a lot over the past few years and one that’s finally gaining some acceptance is that the bulk of meaningful innovation in Japan is going to come not from startups but from midsized companies. Of course, Japanese venture capital and the ecosystem will adapt to include these players but things are going to develop differently in Japan than in the United States. With this in mind, perhaps you won’t be too surprised to learn that Japan’s leading drone company is not a traditional startup but a midsized company that pivoted into drones from a completely different industry.

Today, we’ll sit down with Takayuki Kumada, founder and CEO of Blue Innovation, Japan’s leading drone integrator. Now, Blue Innovation attracted international attention last year with the announcement of their T-Friend drone. Now, this drone is designed to reduce overtime by flying around the office taking pictures of staff and telling them to go home, and yeah, we talk about how effective this is likely to be but we also talk about the integrator strategy, the one that’s being pursued by a lot of the most successful high-tech startups in Japan. It’s a strategy that allows them to quickly collaborate across industries and brings an immediate cash flow, but it does come at a cost and it might not be stable long-term, but we’ll get into that. We also talk about the future of drones, both in Japan and globally and what’s really holding the industry back, and why the Japanese government’s crackdown on drones might have actually forced the industry to focus on a very specialized and very lucrative niche,

But you know, Takayuki tells the story much better than I can, so let’s get right to the interview.


Tim: So I’m sitting here with Takayuki Kumada, the CEO of Blue Innovation, and Blue Innovation is developing civil engineering services using drones. So thanks for sitting down with me.

Takayuki: Thank you very much.

Tim: Okay. On your website and in interviews, I’ve heard you describe Blue Innovation as drone integrators. I was wondering if you could explain, what exactly does that mean? What is a drone integrator?

Takayuki: Ah, I see.

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