#027 – Raising $20 Million and Creating the World’s Largest Drone Data Platform with Mike Winn
[00:00:00] [Advertisement]: This episode is brought to you by UpSonder, the easiest way to monetize your drone with the industry’s only million dollar protection coverage free to its members UpSonder is the top choice among certified drone pilots to get up and stay up to get started. Create your free listing today at upsonder.com
[00:00:23] [Introduction]: Welcome to Commercial Drones.FM, the podcast that explores the commercial drone industry the people who power it and the concepts that drive it. I’m your host Ian Smith.
[00:00:35] IAN SMITH: Hey everybody. Today I’m sitting here on the weekend at DroneDeploy HQ with one Mr. Mike Winn who’s the CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy which is a data software mapping company that I actually work at full disclosure. But I thought it be a really cool opportunity to bring him on and chat about the drone industry and see how it’s shaping up. So how’s it going Mike? Welcome to the show.
[00:01:02] MIKE WINN: I’m great thanks thanks for having me.
[00:01:04] IAN: My pleasure. So thanks for meeting here on the weekend. And I guess we can kick it off with a big announcement that was recently made about DroneDeploy, so $20 million Series B. So what’s that money going to be used for? What does a drone company need 20 million bucks for ?
[00:01:23] MIKE: Sure. We’re really excited to raise the money from some great investors. One of those things as a startup, growing really fast. You hire and quickly you boatin the company really quickly and you need capital to do that. We’ve been really lucky to not just get just the capital but also the people behind the money that have really been able to help us build this business people that have been involved in building big companies before us 20 million bucks. It’s sounds like a lot of money. But when you’re building a company as quickly as we are it’s we put to work very quickly. We want to build a company in every direction we expand our products would make that that more reliable.
[00:02:07] We are building more and more features for enterprise users. We are expanding our sales and marketing teams more and more people are looking to use drones across multiple industries and we are trying to reach them. And of course we are building our business on the engineering side to make sure that we can keep building features to maintain the velocity that we’ve had so far and make sure that we can solve even more problems with drones.
[00:02:34] IAN: Nice. Sounds like a logical plan there. So we’re going back I don’t know how many years maybe many years how long have you been in the drone industry yourself and what did you do before? Like how did you get to where you were today?
[00:02:50] MIKE: Yeah. Wow. And I’ve been flying drones for a long time but eight years now been flying RC helicopters. They weren’t called drones back then. I am always wanting to start a drone business. In fact this is the third drone business myself and Jono and my co-founders have actually explored over the time but the first one that we actually gave up our jobs and Ph.D. is to commit to full time when flying. I actually bought Jono and Nikki Haley come to each that was studying for Ph.D.s, I had more money than they did I bought them both helicopters and said you’re right. One day we’re going to build a business on this. And but three years ago we did. And that’s when we officially launched DroneDeploy, we came across to the United States. We put in an incubator called Angel pad. And you’ve been crying ever since.
[00:03:36] IAN: What what kind of RC helicopters did you buy them. Were they like gas powered ones or like electric.
[00:03:42] MIKE: Yeah I came in at that point in time electric became viable when the coal ash and the grease of gas powered. You didn’t need to do all those things you could get a battery would fly for six minutes. These six minutes that’s good. Back then I’ll try and what I had a copy of the new blades to get to seven minutes. It was a fun time I spent as much time building and repairing my that as it did flying. But it was just what really sparked my interest in them in drones.
[00:04:12] IAN: Some people would tell you they can get a whole lot done in just six minutes.
[00:04:16] MIKE: That’s true.
[00:04:18] IAN: So we had previously had Nick on this show your co-founder, So I guess. Well how did you meet Nick so some of the listeners may have listened to that episode and I don’t know I think it just be kind of cool to have like a connect the dots thing. Where did you guys kind of get together. I mean some people listening might be starting a drone company looking for a co-founder maybe but your situation might be different.
[00:04:44] MIKE: Yeah. Well I mean yeah I’ve known Nick for a long time now maybe 11 years. I went to college with Nick. He actually knew my 3rd co-founder Jono from school. They’ve known each other for 15 years too long. I’m really lucky to have been able to start the company with people you already know and trust that you’ve worked with before. We’ve done lots of projects before. This was not the first startup we’ve tried to build even since we were in college together. We we did lots of things. I remember we worked in what is called the Netflix prize about 10 to 12 years ago.
[00:05:16] IAN: Netflix prize?
[00:05:18] MIKE: Yes. Actually it was about 8 years ago. Netflix ran a competition to see if you could improve their ranking system the rating system to predict what people would like to watch. It was a big data problem and Nick all three of us. We did math together, I did economics, John and Nick did computer science put our brains together to have with an entry in there. Clearly we didn’t win but this is a fun first project.
[00:05:42] IAN: Maybe it’s good or really good that you didn’t win it you would have been finding yourselves maybe doing something else. That’s awesome. So in the time we kind of. OK so you started with I guess gas powered and battery powered helicopters since I guess since drone deployed since 2013 early 2013 when you guys started this. How has drone technology progressed since then.
[00:06:06] MIKE: Well that’s crazy thinking about where we are coming from is what people might call a consumer driven angle. The idea that you could buy a train for about a thousand bucks put that to work. We’ve been working on that since we started. So it’s three and a half years. Back then we had to build every single drone that we flew. And they went for it yet they flew for eight minutes. They were not very safe in the air.
[00:06:33] IAN: They were like fixed wing ones mostly?
[00:06:36] MIKE: We got fixed wing. We’ve got one of their original fixed wing adjourns in the office here in fact the first DroneDeploy drones is hanging up on the couches. I don’t think every DroneDeploy employee knows that actually.
[00:06:44] IAN: Describe it what does it look like?
[00:06:47] MIKE: Is that Calypso it’s a glider. It’s a powered glider. That’s what we through and we all find with autopilots We started very much there with the open source community that was the easiest durians we could actually program. I think the only difference we could program at the time and yet we used to send them often both software against them.
[00:07:05] IANL Was the aspiration always to kind of B2B company for DroneDeploy or did you guys just kind of throw it out there or was that the strategy from the start.
[00:07:19] MIKE: Yeah it was I think originally back in the day when the one of the DroneDeploy original business was kind of conceived in a hottub over a beer. And at that point in time it was three and half years ago drones just starting to become a thing that’s a niche community it is really kind of taking seriously. And we thought wow drones are predominantly going to be commercial drones that are going to be very people useful fun but they’re just going to be a lot more of them being used by enterprises. So if we want to build a business here we should be voting for the biggest markets. And we should be building for boating in that space. We have the greatest strengths. We have identified that the biggest problem with commercial drones with they’re just too hot to use but ordinary people need to be an expert. And it was too hard to get the data off them and to a place where the data could be used. Those are both software problems we are software guys.
[00:08:14] IAN: Exactly. Well you’re basically describing when I when I kind of made that move over here to DroneDeploy when I saw it you guys were doing it was just very cool, very unique at the time. I think it’s been inspiring to a lot of other people so you’ve processed plenty of maps, your fair share. I know you’re not done yet but so far it’s been quite a few quite a few maps drone maps. What’s one of the coolest case studies that you’ve seen lately.
[00:08:45] MIKE: Yeah I mean this is one of the most interesting aspects of the company is you just get so much data through and vets from all over the world. The number we announced about a month or so there was six million acres. Far beyond that. About 130 countries are ready if there is work to be done in a country. People are using a drone and using DroneDeploy and they collecting data about just about everything all the usual suspects of agriculture, construction, mining whatever but also unusual ones archaeology and environmental research on coral reefs and all sorts of weird things. And I think that’s one of the interesting things for us is that every week we see a new interesting use case of a jury and we’d never before thought of just a little while ago we saw a really cool new one is. We’ve talked a lot about disaster response with drones but even Disaster Response commercially is important. And what we saw we saw a guy doing a really cool thing. He had a tornado ripped through his farm deposit all sorts of trash all over it.
[00:09:47] There are fences and logs and tons of things and you’ve got a couple of hundred acres of corn. How the hell do you know where it is. How do you make us make sure that you don’t actually drive over that with your combine harvester in a couple of months time.
[00:09:59] IAN: Ahh the debris. Because that could tear up the combine and oof would not be good.
[00:10:06] MIKE: And originally the guy said hey look at what we do is in these times just walk around trying to find it. And he remembers Hey I’ve got a drone. And this is the natural progression you’d look at just fly it around and catch a video. He got some video he saw but about that the biggest areas and was like hey I’ve got DroneDeploy, let me make a map of this. He actually got out there, make a map I can demarcate every single piece of trash where I can see it and just go one by one. Let’s he saved pretty much tens or hundreds of hours.
[00:10:31] IAN: Wow nice. Yeah it’s good to see I think there’s also some implications for that too. If if the crops were damaged or whatever and it was during or pre harvest then they could do some insurance claims stuff with some some other well actually be what Cassidy Rankin with with Skymatics doing sky claims stuff automatically identifying areas that were damaged during hail or weather events on crops and then being able to kind of make previous guest by the way. Cassidy on another episode where we talked about that.
[00:11:06] So that’s cool. So drones can be used in all kinds of cool ways. And that’s that’s a very unique one with finding debris from it from a tornado.
[00:11:14] MIKE: I just like to make a call and you can read all about those things on my blog. There’s a blog post about that. They also talk about the insurance implications and there’s hundreds of stories across every industry of just interesting things people are doing with drones.
[00:11:27] IAN: I think blog.dronedeploy.com, cool so if you’re interested you can go check that out and see there’s definitely something that might pertain to you or just some stuff to get the old creative juices flowing I’m thinking on how you want to use drones in your business. Awesome So what’s in your mind I guess all in just in general. What is one of the most impressive things happening in the drone industry right now to Mike Winn?
[00:11:56] MIKE: Hmm, we’re lucky that we are on this kind of rising tide all the time. The really interesting things happening of course is interesting things happening in our company and outside. I think one thing that’s really impressed me in the last couple of weeks is just the DJI Mavick launch. I was watching their view and they’re just weighing the P4 vs the Mavick and I think the Mavick is like 2.5 times lighter about a kilogram.
[00:12:24] It has all the capabilities of the P4 has it has this sense and avoid it has a great camera, it can fly for actually it seems like a little bit longer than the P4. It’s foldable you can carry it in your pocket if you really want to and that just it’s just amazing how the drones keep on miniaturizing that getting cheaper and better at every single cycle and that cycles’ not necessarily every year it’s every six months.
[00:12:48] IAN: That’s crazy. Yeah it’s been quite a wild ride from Whenever I first started at drone deploy it was what phantom 2 vision plus P3 was just announced. And from there it’s just been like this rocket ship of exponentially advancing technological feats that DJI has pretty much been been leading the pack on. So yeah that’s cool the the hardware being augmented by the software.
[00:13:15] I agree like the forward facing collision avoidance stuff is cool. There’s also underneath the drone but then making at 360 degrees of course is like the next step so that the drone always knows what’s around it. So I’m sure we’re going to be seeing that pretty soon. So what about what do you think?
[00:13:35] There was also another big launch though the GoPro Karma was announced and so by the time this airs actually I think both the maverick and the Karma will be in people’s hands. And so what do you think I mean from so from just from like a photogramytry perspective obviously like they GoPro karma still uses a GoPro. Apparently it has a rectilinear mode. So you can remove some of the fisheye but also like the DJI mavick I mean both are viable photogrammetry drones or what do you think?
[00:14:10] Ian: Yeah it is interesting I think. I mean it’s great to see GoPro coming into the space and I think like what we’re going to see is that the Mavick can do a little bit better than most drone enthusiasts think go purchase has a massive brand recognition and it’s pretty decent looking drone. It’s quite cool. The modularity can actually get a camera with it you get a an an osmo effectively as well. It has that adaptability. Let’s see which is pretty cool. And of course GoPro has this massive retail presence like you go to stores and you see good friends more so than even any other camera brand these days. But that said, GoPro’s definitely oirenting this device to consumers.
[00:14:53] For photogrammetry. Yeah I don’t I don’t think we’re going to see it as much. I’m not actually sure how we’re going to geo reference those images can we. And maybe they gonna have logs. Maybe there is a way they can do that. I’m not exactly sure. It doesn’t seem like for the for the community that are really doing the most sophisticated things and they are already using drones to mapping things that I think they’re going to look at what exists from the P4 to the Mavick and they’re probably going to find generally those devices they’re going to use.
[00:15:29] IAN: I agree. Yeah I think it will I guess time will tell. Once we get some people trying to send over some karma data then we’ll have to take a look at it. Enterprise companies. What what’s going on with them? I mean, how have you seen just in the past year maybe the response from enterprise companies to using commercial drones and integrating them into their operations?
[00:15:54] MIKE: Yeah I think the drone space is a quite an interesting space for enterprise adoption. I think its one of those technologies that enterprise is actually really hungry for more so than other types of technology. And I think it’s primarily because drones are flying robots and they just they just can do something that they could never do before. Now they can get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening. So pretty much every big company every company that is dealing in the physical world is interested in using drones and they’re thinking about how do we deploy these things with the section 333 process that really limited the number of enterprises that we really go through with they need to get pilots.
[00:16:31] And it was quite hot to do that you had six months of legal work. But now with part 107 we’re seeing a lot of enterprises jump in and they figure out not just how to get that first drone in in use but actually how did they scale it to ten hundred drones across an operation. And there’s a lot of the problems we’re facing right now. How do we build a tool that works enterprise wide. Hundred people. And you say you’re going to see a lot of features coming from us right now. But also in the next in Q4 to deal with exactly those kind of problems to equip enterprises to be able to deal with that with drones at scale to be able to make sure that any data they collect is is usable across the company. That’s the right kind of commissions.
[00:17:20] And of course that we am trying to put to be integrated with compliance partners to enable any enterprise to make sure that they’re doing the right things and they have the right processes in place to just stay within the law.
[00:17:34] IAN: Yeah I agree. So looking back for me just personally a year ago I mean there was a lot of like Enterprise interests there still was but it was always like kind of preceded by where we were thinking about a 333. It was always just kind of like kicking the tires like seeing OK how useful could this be can you guys do this. Is it possible that I can do this.
[00:17:59] Well what do I need to make this happen. And so with 107 coming out it’s just been like OK now we’re rolling and not even just with one roll it’s like we’re we’re buying like five and we’re getting people set up and we need to start training and getting processes in place and everything.
[00:18:15] MIKE: I think what we’re going to see is that that magic is going to help us further. Now there’s enjoying that even smaller lighter it poses less risk. It’s easier to carry around and manage, you don’t need to actually even have its back its own bag. I think that the comments is that the best the best camera is the camera in your pocket. It’s going to be the best drone is the drones that is in your bag.
[00:18:35] IAN: Drone in your own in your pocket. OK. Drone service providers so they kind of started this whole thing. I mean the early adopters I think they kind of just started out like they had their own drone for a hobbyist use and then they realized wow I might be able to make some money on this. How do you see the relationship between a drone service provider and an enterprise company existing?
[00:19:02] Like I’ve got. Like my my kind of perception on that is that there are these you might you just mentioned that there’s an element of risk and so sometimes these enterprise companies are so used to contracting out this work that they’ll go find like it, they’ll vet and find like a very very competent Drug Service Provider and then they’ll bring them on to do it. But then there’s also some enterprise companies that I think just want to do it themselves so what have you seen as far as like the relationship the dichotomy between a DSP a drone service provider and an enterprise?
[00:19:37] IAN: I actually wrote a whole piece about this on drone life. Honestly, drone service providers are the mechanism through which most companies are deploying a drone first. You want to see what you can get how it works what the quality of the data is, how useful and accurate the data is. People are hiring in drone service providers saying hey let me just start by just bringing a guy in with these all the risks not to learn anything. And we think thats kind of the path that most companies take is get a drone service provider in.
[00:20:07] We have a huge number of different service providers on our platform people that are going out doing these jobs and they are really part important part of the community and the guys are really pushing the envelope trying to do the biggest job the most accuracy a really try to understand lots of different verticals and they are really kind of the evangelists for drones across the country across the world.
[00:20:31] IAN: Totally agree. Huge shout out to – I know Dale Parrish won’t mind a little mention I’ve never mentioned them yet but Dale is out in Oklahoma and he’s just been crushing it from a drone service provider perspective. I think he originally got a drone to do some aerial photo stuff and then he started identifying problems and he was talking to some of his friends and colleagues and seeing that there was like problems that needed to be solved on these like oil storage tank areas and so that anyways he we did some stories on him on Dale but he’s just been he embodies exactly what you’re saying is like trying to understand these different verticals and he’s going out there finding the hardware and software that makes it possible to help these companies solve those problems.
[00:21:15] So looking back a bit more in drone deploy or back in the annals of history here you guys used to make something called the copilot. Tell me the history of the copilot. This is a really cool story. We still do get questions about the copilot like how can I buy one. Unfortunately you can’t. We had to go ahead and discontinue it. But tell us about you know, how did this come about? Like what. This is a cool. It’s really cool. What is it? What’s the copilot?
[00:21:46] MIKE: What’s the co-pilot’s. When we started during the flight there was actually no way to programmatically interface with the drone. And at the time if you did want to kind of control all you need laptops and a crazy radio systems that didn’t actually have a very good range there is no way to actually control the camera on the drone. So you couldn’t actually say take a photo right now to use these that crazy hacks in the cameras. You couldn’t know it the imagery was blurry and not taking it all so we thought well look given there’s no hardware that’s yet ready for the software that we’re trying to build. We’re going to just kind of act to get us some hardware to to enable us to do the things we need to do.
[00:22:27] And one of the one of our early employees had some modern hardware engineering background enough to get us to do what we need to do and we built a little copilot’s was a computer that you put inside your drone that would connect to the Internet you put a little team you modem in there and connect to a camera. And that enabled us to really create what we would have called the first smart drone and that had a full on processor and that was connected to the internet and the drone was part of the internet of things and it was a really simple device. It was actually just pretty much.
[00:22:58] It was a Raspberry Pi with a little connection board and this LTE modem and we wrote a bunch of software on there to enable us to control a drone from anywhere in the world whenever we had soft and support questions we could actually connect directly to the jury and it could be in Kansas sitting waiting to take off and we could actually see exactly what was going on that could be a camera issue. We could diagnose and fix it from our office in San Francisco. We could watch flights happening in Germany even launch the flights from San Francisco while talking to somebody in Germany at the time. t.
[00:23:29] IAN: That was me. That was awesome. Actually I think that was really clear a crowd pleasing moment when they saw the drone and the map coming through the internet and real time in Germany from Kansas.
[00:23:41] MIKE: And I think that’s kind of the real interesting opportunity with that actually process the data in real time we would actually get all the images off the drone in real time and and set up a machine to actually process that data quickly and deliver back a kind of preview map of the space the drone was flying over. It would just be like one or two five lines behind. Then the farmer could actually see in real time what was going on in his field and be able to walk out to the spot that needed attention without needing to go home wait for the data to be processed. So really amazing capabilities we’re the first guys I think to really use LTE in drones. This late 2013 early 2014.
[00:24:22] IAN: Make it commercially available.
[00:24:23] MIKE: We made it commercially available hundreds of people were using it. It was really exciting but and yeah obviously we weren’t hardware company, we didn’t wanna build hardware. And what we saw was the industry was finally enabling us to write software directly against a drone with Esti case. And so that point in time. This is the copilot business is always going to be just a small fraction of the drones out there. Let’s make sure the software we are building is available to anyone.
[00:24:52] IAND: And so why don’t we see what and what in your mind. We still don’t see that like DJI, 3D Robotics, GoPro, Parrot. Nobody is really putting LTE modems in drones although I will say Belair-Tech had and has 3G 4G modems in their drones which is really cool but those are pretty nice very very high high cost platforms for very specific purposes. I know there’s FCC regulations and deploying this at scale and putting a modem in a drone is going to be very difficult. But do you have any? When will we see more 4G capability? In these towns we can buy right off the shelf.
[00:25:37] MIKE: We are looking forward to that. I mean it’s just a matter of time. I mean Verizon just launched their new program. It’s funny we are using Verizon. Back then Verizon was charging us less was $13 a gig now they want 20. Oh you mean this stuff has already been tried and tested. It does work. It is amazing what you can do. It’s not to say that you should only rely on LTE. I think the important thing in any aircraft is redundancy should have a link to the ground and a link to the Internet. And drones there are a lot of manufacturers are already thinking about this. You can you can imagine intel on Qualcomm. They’re building their own boards. They have those abilities because that’s what they’re doing. And when we have every drones connects to the internet of things will be able to do truly amazing things. I mean it’s pretty much a requirement for on of sites for at least in my mind.
[00:26:31] IAN: I agree. Being able to control it from anywhere getting diagnostic information. I mean sending that data in real time is just really cool and a very flexible capability to have.
[00:26:42] MIKE: We’ve got probably thousands maybe tens of thousands of flight hours on LTE and it works. There are scenarios where it doesn’t work as well as we would like but it does work. It works like the 99th percentile.
[00:26:54] IAN: Yeah.
[00:26:55] MIKE: And so it’s not going to be allowed until we see a lot of drones have this capability and it’s going to really drive them to be able to do amazing new things.
[00:27:04] IAN: So more third world countries not necessarily third world but countries with less infrastructure are probably going to start being blanketed more in these high speed Internet from like the high altitude drones or what not from from Facebook and Google. I mean they’re really going after those huge markets where there’s not there’s no like 3G or 4G, LTE infrastructure built yet. But yeah I think as that technology progresses there’s going to be less and less reason. I mean we’re talking about a future where it’s like oh you use a directional antenna like why are you having that weren’t you using 4G or 5G or whatever it’s going to be called that’s going to be exciting. Totally.
[00:27:47] And speaking of the future what kind of plans this drone deploy have in store for the future of drone software? What’s it like? You know if you could see ahead like a year or two from now I mean. What do you see feature set? not necessarily specific features but just, where do you see what drone deploy as like a cloud based drone software company providing for customers drone technology still relatively new and relatively young?
[00:28:19] MIKE: So this is a lot of steps you got to take in building the software. We them we focus just on kind of making mass coverage areas putting 3D models those kind of data sets you can imagine that those deficits will expand we already working them on multi-spectral you’re going to see more development of features like right now we have a great platform that enables anyone to get this bird’s eye view that’s measurable that’s metric that’s repeatable very very simply. But you can see we’re already building more and more features that Gurlitt deeper to enable you to not just get a map of your field but actually to count the individual crops that you’ve planted ought to be able to see individual roof damage. We’re working with lots of third parties and that’s something you’re going to see more and more from us as an ecosystem of people that are working on more and more specific tasks in the German space specific niches to solve really high value problems.
[00:29:13] IAN: Different industrial verticals. I remember a lot of people. Let’s see. I mean even back in 2013 when I got into this industry. OK cool you give me NDVI map. That’s great. What do I do with it. And so now like we’ve already kind of seen that with like the the kind of the shape file exports you can get you know showing a grid format across a field what the relative health is and then using those to develop a prescription map. So yeah I agree I can see that kind of being pumped up full of steroids and using more. I mean do you see like machine learning and computer vision playing a part in any of this.
[00:29:57] MIKE: Oh definitely. And I think what’s interesting about our company we’ve got this huge data sets we’ve talked what 6 million acres, we think that’s the worlds largest sense sensing the resolution deficit in the world for anyone. And what we’re seeing with machine learning now that’s kind of the background of the three founders John and Nick is a machine in my back I did four years of applied math. And what we’re seeing now is that the it’s not really the tools that will really enable machine in each company to be best machine learning it’s the data sets. Companies like Google and Microsoft that just giving away their tool sets will free you just use them open sourced. But what makes those tools powerful is feeding in huge amounts of high quality data.
[00:30:40] IAN: OK Google. How far is the moon?
[00:30:45] MIKE: Exactly.
[00:30:45] IAN: I knows my voice,its just getting voice data and photo data from my free unlimited google photo storage.
[00:30:53] MIKE: And I think what’s really amazing is that for all our customers as we get more data into our system our systems will get better it will get better at identifying trees and counting them or identifying cars or determining where there are weeds in a field just as we get more data and we are going to get better at solving these problems.
[00:31:08] IAN: These are little steps towards that are just always super interesting to me and very satisfying when we see that we’ve taken this incremental step towards like a greater thing and I think if you look back five years from now when we look back we will see all the little steps clear and how much that played a role in eventually getting to this like such such an automated state where problems are just auto identified and interaction from humans is literally just OK we’ll go fix that. But then the drones with the hands on them will eventually go fix that.
[00:31:38] MIKE: Yeah. I mean that’s the dream of every farmer that have spoken to is to be able to need to do less things that they want to be able to operate their farm remotely. And so we working with a bunch of people that are working on problems that integrates with solutions that integrate into drone deploy to solve these kind of problems and we’re going to kind of just keep on climbing the stairs making the tools more and more sophisticated one step at a time.
[00:31:59] We can’t necessarily jump to the end state immediately. The tools don’t exist. The data doesn’t exist. A lot of people that talk about those things well they’re talking about things that actually not going to work that well actually in the real world but step by step. The next five years you’re going to see a completely different capability from drones and data collection. Just how much of a problem are they really going to be able to solve. They really going to get to the end.
[00:32:26] IAN: You guys just launched the first app market, the first kind of app store for commercial drones. What what was the impetus behind that? Why did drone deployed decide to launch that? I think it was on November 4th. So just a few weeks ago. But yeah tell us tell us a little bit about why that was launched and what your thought process behind that is.
[00:32:51] MIKE: Yeah we’re really excited about the the app marketplace. And you can imagine that when we started the company the vision was pretty simple we needed to make drones accessible and productive to anyone. And we’ve gone quite far down the line on the accessibility. Literally thousands of people are using our product getting drones in the air capturing data that was difficult for us to actually foresee a couple of years ago. But on the productivity pots what you’ve got to a stage where people can fairly predictably and reliably get aero data from their drones. Rebuild them in 3D models and maps and things like that. But that’s those 3D models and maps aren’t actually the answer to that many business questions. It’s just a part of the journey.
[00:33:34] With the AppStore we actually enable people to get to the end results they’re looking for complete their workplace get the data they need not just a map of their trade but how many trees are in the orchard how many trees are dead versus alive or at different stages of maturity and they can get that data to where it needs to be whether that’s in John Deere or box whatever. And now any developer can build on top of it and deploy it to solve real problems in their specific niche.
[00:34:00] IAN: Nice So as a user or as a commercial drone user if you’re on your drone deploy you can go ahead and select one of how many apps are there on the app market?
[00:34:10] MIKE: I think we launched with bots 17 or 18 and now we’re up to about 20 or so.
[00:34:15] IAN: As a user of drone deploy or commercial drone user or what kind of apps are available to me on the drone deploy app market today?
[00:34:24] MIKE: Yes, you can think about the apps and about three broad themes. The first is flights and compliance and analysis and lastly export starting in the flights and compliancy you can actually install a couple of tools like map to make sure you’re flying in the right spaces far away from airports or apps that can help you with your flight logs, things like drone log book or flight. Kitty Hawk, ENVI drones, skyward. These are all tools that you can actually take the flight logs from deploy and export them automatically into one of these tools to enable you to keep a track record of where you’ve been flying and operating.
[00:34:59] There are companies like verify which enable you to capture the insurance. I talk to both analytics, companies that do all sorts of crap analytics of counting trees, accounting crops, giving you a sense of where you’ll plant under stress and there’s construction apps easier roof, is a pretty cool one what you can do is you can actually take a 3D model from a juror and click a button and from that 3D model simplify it down to just kind of the architectural drawing of like kind of the line drawing.
[00:35:30] Then lastly states that are a couple of tools to actually get data to where it needs to be whether its with Bucks or John Deere etc. and this is just the beginning of it so I’ve just named a couple of our apps. There are a ton more developers in action I think about 100 of them have got in contact with us. And so you’re going to see a lot more tools coming in the near future.
[00:35:51] IAN: See on one of them one of the one that I think is kind of cool is white cloud. It’s like a 3D printing app. You can get your digital drone 3-D model printed physically in your hands in color and they’re like the largest color printing 3-D color printing outfit in the world. So that’s pretty cool. And so what about development ok cool. End users there’s all kinds of apps there’s going to be plenty more in the future. Sounds like it’s a big initiative for DroneDeploy. What about as a developer? What’s the process to develop an app like? have you ever developed an app. I mean what’s going on on that end?
[00:37:03] IAN: So I won’t be. I won’t play extremely coy so I’ve tried this myself of course. I actually helped a little bit out on that weather app too and it is seriously, I’m not a programmer or anything. It’s super easy you can get started like immediately and start building something and it’s actually pretty cool. The development environment and you don’t really need any special tools to get started. So just the idea of really awesome. So app market really successful launch it’s moving forward.
[00:37:33] Where do you see this in. I don’t know 12 months from now? I mean this sounds like it’s a big initiative for drone deploy. What are your aspirations for how big can actually get and where do you really want it to go? Just kind of in relation to the entire commercial drone industry and end users themselves.
[00:37:53] MIKE: That’s a really big question.
[00:37:55] IAN: It’s a long question too. Like three questions in one.
[00:37:58] MIKE: Talk about the vision here. See I think anyone that’s been in the German space with commercial joined space for a while has really started to see that there’s just so many different ways to use it. And in each different vertical whether it’s AG or construction or insurance inspection there are some verticals within those. And in each sub vertical there’s many different tools to be used in the thousands of different ways and different outcomes you might be looking for with a drone.
[00:38:25] This app market enables every one of those to happen in one centralized place. It took us a little while to get to this point where we could build the platform first we have to make our own selves that a lot of people used in lights and came back to. Now we kind of giving the opportunity to kind of the next generation of German companies saying I know a lot about detecting cracks in asphalt or wind turbines. And I can actually if given the right data and access to customers I can build a business which solves this kind of nice neat but high value problem. So you can imagine the future of this future and deploy it in the next five years. We’re going to see real businesses being built just to build apps that solve problems on the on our app store.
[00:39:12] IAN: That’s awesome. Cool. Well if you want to learn more about the app store or the app market rather you can check it out on developer.dronedeply.com or if you’re a developer or you can just go to dronedeploy.com and right on the front page there’s a big kind of hero image that will tell you about it more if you’re just a commercial and user yourself. So let’s move on to some other topics. What’s it like working at DroneDeploy?
[00:39:39] MIKE: It’s funny I’m a founder of course. I think it’s very nice.I think I should ask you that question.
[00:39:45] IAN: It’s nice. It’s nice.
[00:39:48] MIKE: You know we think that we’ve built a really exciting company. And if you look at some of the outside reviews of us people would say the same I mean if you look at last or five in five out of five rating we are very proud of it and the people that work here are amazingly smart people. I’m always learning from them. We have built a really great community where everyone has lunch together we do barbecues together we spend all the time outside of work together, working on a really exciting space that’s just growing like gangbusters and we get to ride this wave together.
[00:40:21] We get to solve some really interesting problems not just technically but also in business. No one has ever built a business like this before in a space like this before. And that’s really a lot of really exciting problems to solve and really great people to tap into it we’ve got some really great board members that spend a little time with us trying to help us understand. Like hey how is this industry going to involve what is the best strategic position to be in. And I think the combination of all those things gets to be in a position where our employees really love working for us. We do this five out of five ranking on glass door and we our job and my job is to make sure that continues that we can grow and scale this business and without losing what makes it special.
[00:41:08] IAN: Shout out to one of those board members Kevin Spain. He was on the Commercial Drones.FM podcast, one of the earliest episodes actually. It’s a good one if you want to learn a little bit more about that so, is Mike is DroneDeploy hiring?
[00:41:20] MIKE: Is it hiring? Yeah definitely we hiring for almost every single field. We’re growing really fast. We need really smart talented people with experience to come join our company and help us grow the capabilities of drones together.
[00:41:42] IAN: Just a quick little tidbit if you guys are interested in trying to apply for DroneDeploy. One thing that I’ve found is that passion speaks volumes. So if you’ve got the passion you can come bring it.
[00:41:54] MIKE: Come bring it and go to dronedeploy.com and click on the careers page.
[00:41:59] IAN: Do it up. Cool. So last question Mike. Any advice for someone who is just starting out or wants to be part of the commercial drone industry?
[00:42:09] MIKE: Sure. This is an industry growing really fast. So there’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of different spaces. I think the starting point is to think about what are you good at. What’s your competitive advantage. And that can really dictate what you should be doing. And we were lucky that we had strength in software and so that’s what we did. We didn’t front though drones or actually go do operations. We probably wouldn’t be that good at that. So figure out what your competitive advantages and then go really hard and go after that and and go out there and find some real customers and deliver services. I was I think speaking to a drone service provider the other day that went out there and he just went to construction sites and started offering his services for free.
[00:42:49] And he said hey I want to make. I want help you guys I understand your construction site. I will work for free for you. And they said sure why not. And then they sold the data he created and they hired him and.
[00:43:02] IAN: Hustle.
[00:43:03] MIKE: But even if they didn’t hire him it would have been an amazing learning experience. I think that’s a big thing for any entrepreneur is just to go out there put your foot out there be kind of aggressive in kind of get something done and get it done and get it out there its customers and test it even if you’re giving it away. The core thing is that you’re going to learn.
[00:43:21] IAN: A lot of people ask things like well what should I charge? Honestly these days I don’t really know. Like you don’t want to charge too little. You don’t want to charge too much obviously because then you’re scared that you might lose the job and you’ll be outbid by someone else. But really I think talking to the customer and then figuring out, OK this is what they’re paying. Well I’ll give it to you for less than it’ll be X times better so doing that research hustling. Great advice. I can definitely relate to that.
[00:43:48] MIKE: I was going to add to that one. One thing that’s interesting about this industry is if you think about the opportunities that were three years ago when we started this company or five years of the euro some of our kind of predecessors the startups in the space they kind of had to solve the problems. They went on to solve. They first had to build drones because that was the problem at hand on the day. And now they’re a different problem sets and there’s different opportunities. So it’s had the opportunity to build the kinds of software we build. There are a few options now but there’s more opportunities in other spaces.
[00:44:20] Now it is possible to go and get a drone to fly collect data for you and to process the data. They are going to be lots of startups actually work on top of platforms like ours where they say hey look let’s assume that drone deploy works and they collect collect data and they have lots of customers to do that. What can we do with that data? With that assumption. We’ve seen what companies are really going and voting on top of us saying hey look I understand. So to understand how to build software and so I’m going to start doing shade analysis with drone data and how do I get that out how to all find customers to do that and they are looking at platforms like ours to enable them to distribute their software.
[00:45:01] IAN: Awesome guys so thanks so much for listening everyone. Just another close off the disclaimer. I do work a DroneDeploy full-time. I do enjoy it. I would be a fool for hosting this podcast which is my own personal side project not DroneDeploy related if I did not ask Mike, Nick and Kevin Spain to be guests on the show because they are very brilliant, smart people who have a ton of knowledge to share, so it’s been a pleasure having you Mike.
[00:45:29] Thank you so much for being on the show. You can follow Mike on Twitter @mikewinn. If you want to follow drone deploy, check him out at @dronedeploy. And if you’re interested in working a drone deploy again you can check out the careers page by going to drone .com and scrolling down, so if you want to follow the podcast I’d love to have you as well.
[00:45:52] We’re @dronespodcast on Twitter, Facebook.com/dronespodcast. Follow me on my personal twitter at @skycapture. Subscribe to the podcast. Rate it 5 stars rate at one star, if you rate it 1 star give me a reason why. But do something. Talk to me. Let me know how you like it so. Thanks so much for listening. Any final thoughts Mike before we go ahead and cut off the mics.
[00:46:16] MIKE: Well thanks thanks for having me and that was fun. And I’ve got to do the quick shameless plug. Go ahead and use DroneDeploy it’s free. You can download it on the App Store or go to our Web site dronedeploy.com.
[00:46:28] IAN: Boom. All right. Thanks Mike. It’s been a pleasure again. And maybe we’ll do another episode in the future. Catch you on the flip side. Cheers.