So today I was invited to a UAV product launch, with a company I’ve discussed before Drone Deploy, http://www.dronedeploy.com and https://theuavguy.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/god-is-my-co-pilotor-is-it-drone-deploy/ . However this story has a couple of twists, actually 3 in total. But before we get to that, let’s go back to how it all started.
Drone Deploy was founded by Mike, Jono and Nicholas, 1 Ex-Google and 2 Cambridge Ph.D.’s. Back in the early days in their home in South Africa they decided to try and turn their hobby of RC flying, into saving Rhinos from being poached. That idea sat in their collective minds, and with their passion for RC flight and Engineering knowledge, fast forward and they founded Drone Deploy back in 2013. That’s a pretty noble start, Drones for Good, rather than setting up to just make a quick buck and check out. And I believe that is what makes Drone Deploy what it is today. Rather than focus on money, they focused on how to solve a problem. And from my own personal testing of the system, and from the demo’s today they have a pretty good solution. And as normal when you have a good solution, the money will find you.
That’s not to say they don’t have bugs or issues, actually Drone Deploy will openly say they are improving their product on a daily basis. And that is good, they are listening to their customers and they acknowledge they have work to do and want to do. As with most start-ups they have now hit the conflicting growth versus support issue. When you are a small agile start-up rolling out a new product, that small team now has a massive customer base to support.
Ok back to today, so what does this all mean for you. Well 3 things were announced today at the rather nice launch site at Rams Gate Winery in Sonoma, California, it’s well worth the visit (Nice choice Gretchen.) OK I’ll now go through each in turn.
Number One – The Mobile App
So when I first started mapping, I had to drag out my laptop, a portable table and chair, rig up a sun screen so I could see my computer screen, setup a hotspot via my phone. Then I could go about mission planning. I got used to it, but it just never felt right dragging all this gear around. I got good at packing and unpacking, but it was wasted time.
So I meet Drone Deploy late last year and now I can take just my iPad out and connect that to my phone hotspot and through the web, connect to the Drone Deploy and control my drone. I’ve mentioned that in my past blogs.
Now I just need my iPhone 6+. Normally I preplan a mission at the office, go to the flying site, put down my drone, power it up, pull out my phone from my back pocket, hit the Drone Deploy App, and there in front of me is the pre-planned mission. And you just press go. If flies, it stitches, it lands, you’re done. It’s so easy anyone can fly it, and that’s exactly the point, the workflow has been simplified so the farmer, construction worker, search and rescue personnel, can just define a mapped area, hit go and the rest is all done for you.
So let’s step back, I used to drag a laptop, desk, chair, and sunscreen, have to connect to my hotspot. Now I just pull my smartphone out of my back pocket. That’s what this App does. Now I don’t bother with a laptop or iPad, I just fly using my iPhone 6+
Number Two – Partnership with DJI
Now this is a bit of a big announcement, what has happened here is the top-selling drone manufacturer has just partnered with the leading drone cloud mapping company. Now what does this really mean? Well just looking at the numbers, and these are off the top of my head, DJI has 70% market share on consumer drones with the Phantom and Inspire 1. Now imagine if all you need is a Drone Deploy App, and suddenly these aerial photography and video drones, suddenly become photogrammetry drones capable of GIS work. Just from an App on your phone. Let’s think about that, wherever you have phone service you can make your DJI drone becoming a mapping drone. That means that this is a Global rollout, anywhere in the World, countries cellular barriers are removed as your using a phone from that country. So if you’re a farmer in Peru, or a construction working in China or doing humanitarian work as is now on-going in Vanuatu, you have in your hands now a real autonomous mapping tool with near instantaneous stitching. All from that Phantom you have sat in the garage. God knows what Cartman on South Park would have done with a Drone Deploy Phantom!
So what exactly can a Phantom with Drone Deploy do, well here are some maps, as normal with Drone Deploy you get a fully stitched orthomosaic, a pseudo NDVI (unless you have a NIRGB camera then it is true ENDVI or NDVI), Digital elevation Model and of course the 3D model. So here are maps of the Rams Gate Winery, one showing the Vineyard, the other the Property. Remember this is a stock Vision+ camera, it’s pretty impressive. Now just imagine what could happen in the future with the Inspire with its removable camera, you now are looking at possible swappable sensor payloads. The future is coming.
Maps of Rams Gate Winery Vineyard:
And here is the Vineyard Complex:
Now here is a zoomed in part of one of the maps, remember this is a Vision+ Camera
And just to show how easy it is here is a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ taking off after Patrick Egan (@theDroneDealer and @sUASnews) after he hit the go button.
Nmber Three – Funding
Like any startup it’s all about the burn-rate and growth. At some point to hit critical mass you need that injection of funds. I’ve been watching this space for a number of years, and it’s curious to see the people who are now funding start-ups. I’ve been through two start-ups myself, I enjoyed them and I took away valuable lessons, so I have some understanding of start-up issues. So I digress, Intel backed Precision Hawk, Richard Branson and Qualcomm backed 3D Robotics and now Emergence Capital Partners have backed Drone Deploy. It would appear the VC’s are paying attention to the economic benefit and growth of drone markets a lot more than the FAA is.
So who is Emergence Capital Partners, have you of SalesForce.com? You have, well Emergence Capital backed them. Out of this Kevin Spain who drove the deal through now sits’ on the Drone Deploy Board of Directors. So what does that mean for me and you? It means Drone Deploy has a mentor to guide it through its start-up growth, much like a parent guides its toddler when first walking. In reality it means Drone Deploy can boost its team to push for more functionality, resolve those customers’ bugs faster, build a larger customer support team, and you the customer gets a high quality polished tool that just works.
Here is Mike Winn the CEO of Drone Deploy introducing the 3 annoucemnts
So what my wrap up. Trust me Drone Deploy will have growing pains, every start-up has them, look at Makerbot. However what Drone Deploy have done today is fuse 3 parts together:
- Drone Deploy App, the UAV Cloud tech disruptor
- DJI, the largest consumer drone company in the world
- Emergence Capital Partners, an established VC establishment
What’s the take away, sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I believe Steve Jobs said that he modeled Apple after this idea and it was based on his observations of the Beatles, as John, Ringo, Paul and George personalities balanced each other out, and that’s what made them excel. I believe that’s what just happened to the UAV World.
Sometimes the Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts
Until next time.