Christina Cardoza

Jul 28, 2016 10:56:27 AM

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The rise of the drone industry means there are a lot of new opportunities for businesses. Drones are beginning to infiltrate every sector of the economy, and existing businesses are trying to figure out how this can help them grow while new businesses are sprouting up to figure out how to take advantage of the new market.

With the recent announcement of Part 107, drone companies have more chances than ever to get their drone businesses off the ground. We talked to Jonathan Evans, CEO of Skyward (a drone business operations-management provider) to figure out how businesses can succeed in the rising industry.

EVANSJONATHAN.jpegInterDrone: What does Part 107 mean now for drone businesses?

Evans: Companies that are already using drones can look forward to a much lighter day­to­day administrative burden. They’ll no longer have to file monthly reports with the FAA and, in most cases, they’ll no longer need to file a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) with the FAA before they fly.

They’ll have more flexibility when it comes to hiring highly qualified pilots, and they’ll be able to conduct operations in more places. New businesses will no longer face the enormous barrier to entry that has prevented all but 2% of small and medium­sized businesses from adopting drones until now. They’ll no longer have to wait months for regulatory approval before they can start operating, and they’ll have more choice around who they hire and the aircraft they use.

For the industry as a whole, Part 107 is a huge step forward, and I think we’re about to see a rush of adoption and innovation in the space.

So what does it take to have a successful drone business?
This is one area where we haven’t seen much difference between drone service providers and other types of businesses.

No matter what your business does, in order to be successful, you need to provide excellent customer service, deliver the product you committed to, communicate well with your clients, honor timelines, develop your expertise, and charge fair rates. Like professionals in many other industries, drone service providers need to carry liability insurance and follow industry regulations. We get a lot of questions from entrepreneurs about marketing, and we always remind people to start by focusing on a specific industry, become an expert, build trust, accumulate flight hours, and create an outstanding portfolio.

What are currently the most popular industries for drones, and why?
Two industries where we’re seeing strong adoption in the U.S. right now are industrial inspection and film and television. Film and television saw very early adoption, including the first Section 333 exemptions by the MPAA. As our population continues to expand, our need for better, safer, more efficient industrial inspection processes will continue to grow. For example, a drone can inspect a structure in a fraction of the time as a person, and for much less money than a helicopter.

How does Skyward help the business aspect of drones?
At Skyward, we are committed to helping our customers run safe, efficient, thriving operations. We do this in a number of ways. First and foremost, our operations-management platform gives businesses a single place to manage aircraft, batteries, personnel, plan and log operations, and use our expertly validated airspace map to plan flights and collaborate with the flight crew. We also provide operational and regulatory consulting to help businesses launch their operations, and we undertake a limited amount of R&D work for major enterprises with truly innovative visions for drones.

But we’re also committed to advancing the industry as a whole, which is why we hold free webinars every month that anyone can attend, and publish free e-books and articles.

How do you predict the drone industry will grow over the next few years?
To me, what’s so exciting about drones now is that we can’t even imagine the innovative, life­changing ways that drones will be put to use over the next few years. We’ve already seen that drones have revolutionized infrastructure inspections, mapping and modeling, aerial photography, and precision agriculture. This is just the beginning.

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