Join us on Thursday, April 19th at Bond Brothers to meet fellow drone enthusiasts and local drone businesses! We are hosting owners and leaders of several local drone businesses to talk about their respective businesses, the challenges facing the drone industry, and their visions of the future. Bring questions, intrigue, and any other piece of knowledge you may wish to know or share! This event is intended for anyone and everyone interested in drones, whether from a recreational or a commercial perspective. RSVP here!
1. Tell us about your drone business.
At its core, Raleigh UAV is a aerial imaging service provider. Sometimes that service is basic photography and videography or aerial imaging for measuring roofs in solar panel design, and yet other times it might be serving as a consultant on a large-scale agricultural aerial herbicide spraying application. In operation since 2016, we’ve worked with a wide range of clients in the Triangle on diverse set of projects.
2. What made you decide to start a drone business?
I come from an aviation background (US Air Force, B.S. Aerospace Engineering, Business Development at a local Aerospace company, etc) and I was really impressed with the first drone I flew that had a stabilized camera on it. After that experience, it became obvious to me that this was a technology that could be leveraged for so many different industries and applications. In the beginning, my partner and I were shooting stuff on the weekends and in our spare time, but it was quickly becoming clear that there was more demand than we could serve on the very limited time that we had to devote to it so I decided to quit my day-job and focus more on growing this business. Another factor was that it seemed like the local market for this technology wasn’t yet saturated (which is a pretty rare thing in this area).
3. What are some obstacles you see with the drone industry?
I think one of the biggest obstacles at this moment is the speed of legislation and regulation as the pace of drone technology is far exceeding the pace of legislation. It’s pretty typical for legislation to lag behind new technology, but the problem that we’re seeing on a daily basis is that the governing bodies are having a difficult time executing the laws that they already have in place (nevermind the new laws and regulations). For example, we’re currently working with a major state government organization to spray chemicals from a aerial platform in National Park Service (NPS) airspace. The technology has been ready to go for over 6 months but we’ve been waiting on a permit to fly in that NPS airspace. There aren’t a mountain of hurdles, its just a matter of a few people that are a little trepidatious about being the first to approve such flights. In others cases we’ve waited on the FAA waiver process for months on approvals for a simple 15 minute flight within 5 miles of RDU. The length of time it is taking the governing bodies to execute their own waiver process is definitely an obstacle on our business. Currently, public perception is another obstacle that the drone industry is dealing with, but I don’t believe this will be a long-term issue as people get more accustomed to seeing them in action.
4. Where do you see the drone industry in 5 years? 10 years?
This is such an exciting time for drone technology. It seems like every time I think of a possible application, a quick search reveals that someone is already doing that. For example, a friend of mine in the medical field who has worked extensively on the AIDS and Ebola epidemic mentioned that it’d be great if there was a drone that could carry blood samples to/from hard to get to areas in third-world countries. It took about 5 minutes to find that someone is already making great headway on this need. More practically, I think there will be a lot of service provider companies popping up and I also think that a lot of companies will be adding a in-house drone specialist to their payrolls. Also, I’m really hoping all the hype about drone delivery is going to come to fruition within this time period.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give anyone who wants to start a drone business?
My advice isn’t really specific to a drone company, but to anyone thinking about starting *any* business: Go For It. You don’t have to jump in with both feet to get started. Start it and fit it in where you can (nights, weekends, etc). If it looks like it will support it, then you can start thinking about quitting your job for it. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.