Hello, I’m David Johnson. And coming up on the latest Coptrz News update, our sister company, Martek Marine, is named on the world’s biggest maritime drone contract, DJI has released a report which shows that drones do save lives, Canada announces new rules for recreational drone users, and two new patents have been announced for online retail giant, Amazon.
Ready to push the potential of your drone company? Here are 5 key areas budding entrepreneurs should focus on for smooth, successful business expansion.
There comes a point in the life of every ambitious business when it’s time to think bigger.
For UAV operators who have established their start-up, that can be an inspiring – and intimidating – moment.
However, as the market for commercial drone work becomes more crowded, the incentive to push your business to the next level is stronger than ever. With more competition and rising standards – not to mention the incoming new legal framework in the UK – upscaling could be the difference between thriving and just surviving.
So, are you ready to take your drone company from the back room to the boardroom?
Read on for COPTRZ’s guide to upscaling your business.
Imagine a drone that could cross oceans, travel hundreds of miles and gather data in places where humans can’t even get near. Welcome to BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Site) operations – drone operations which, as their name implies, aren’t restricted to how far the pilot can see. Yet at the moment, it’s very hard to get permission to fly a drone without it being in your view. So what’s the future for BVLOS operations, and why are so many drone operators excited about them?
[Short on time? Skip to the end for The Low Down]
The rules right now
The current rules in the UK state that drone operations must be carried out within normal visual line of site – up to 400ft (122m) high and 500m in every direction. Of course, there are very good safety reasons for these restrictions. A drone is a lethal weapon in the wrong hands, even when line of sight rules are being adhered to. Imagine how much more dangerous a drone flying out of sight would be. That’s why it’s very hard to get permission for a BVLOS operation.
But compare that line of sight distance to what a helicopter can do, or a plane. It’s a pretty limited area and it means that drone operations are automatically restricted. The potential for BVLOS operations is huge, across a multitude of sectors. Imagine a drone that could fly over massive fields hundreds of miles square, for example, or one which could search for survivors or pinpoint collapsed buildings and roads across thousands of miles of inhospitable, highly challenging territory. But it will take time, experience and serious investment in the right technology to make these operations commonplace.
David: Hello there, I’m David Johnson, and welcome to another edition of Coptrz TV. This time around it’s all about the permission for commercial operations, the PfCO. And, of course, there are many locations around the UK that Coptrz run this course at. I’m at one of those locations today. We’re talking about ground school, then we move on to flight assessment. And right now it’s lunchtime, so let’s go and get some food and chat to some of the guys taking part in the Coptrz PfCO course.
So, first things first, what is a PfCO, and why do you need one? Coptrz Lead Course Instructor, John Moreland, can tell us more.
We all know they take astonishing bird’s-eye shots, survey vast sites and might even be the postmen and food delivery drivers of the future. But drones have another, increasingly important use: they can save lives. Whether it’s finding lost sailors, identifying earthquake survivors, or transporting blood to disaster-hit areas, drones are starting to play a vital role in emergency services all over the globe. And what we’re seeing now, say experts, is just the beginning of how their potential might be tapped.
Overcoming tough terrain
It’s hard to provide vital services in many parts of the developing world. Crumbling or non-existent roads, unpredictable floods and other natural disasters, rockfalls that block supply routes: all these factors make it difficult or impossible for even the toughest of all-terrain jeeps to get through. It’s the same when it comes to landing helicopters. But drones, of course, don’t have this problem. A recent pilot project in Malawi from UNICEF’s Office of Innovation shows their huge potential in getting life-saving services to as many people as possible: a drone was used to take blood samples from newborn babies from a clinic to a laboratory, where they can be tested for HIV. The trip is just six miles long but bad conditions mean it can take between several hours and several days on a motorbike. By drone, it takes 20 minutes.
Malawi has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world – ten per cent of the population are infected – and early diagnosis can make a huge difference to survival rates. But there are just eight specialist screening laboratories in the country, which most people can’t access – meaning many wait months for a diagnosis. Drone technology could change all that.
We know demand is growing for commercial drones, so manufacturers are stepping up to the plate when it comes to getting drones on their way and up to spec for industrial requirements. It’s no surprise that leading the charge is DJI’s new range offering — The Matrice 200 series.
Last week, Wired magazine affectionately referred to the line as ‘workhorse drones’, and according to reports, DJI has created these models with the express intention of meeting the need for enterprise users head on. How they’ve done it is by adding a whole raft of improvements, extra features and robust tweaks to everything they’ve made before. So, with large shoes to fill (namely their own) when it comes to upping the game, let’s take a look at what DJI will produce from their sleeve.
David: Hello, I’m David Johnson, and welcome to another episode of CoptrzTV, where we’ve all been taken by surprise by a brand-new addition to the DJI range.
Now, we saw photos of motors teased on social media, leading people to speculate it was a new Phantom or an Inspire 2 Pro. Not so, as DJI Enterprise announced the M200 Series, and I have two words for you: game changer.
Being granted your PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) from the CAA is a major milestone for any aspiring drone operator. But what comes next? Coptrz puts the spotlight on Continuous Personal Development (CPD), why you should embrace it and what you need to know.
A new wave of entrepreneurs
The skyrocketing growth of the commercial drone market is opening the door to self-employment for more and more people. The figures speak for themselves: in the US, the Federal Aviation Authority processed nearly 24,000 applications from commercial drone operators in the second half of 2016. Likewise, the UK is enjoying an ongoing spike in drone operators with CAA training.
A much-cited 2016 report from PwC projected that the global drone industry will be worth a staggering $127 billion by 2020. The EU (including Britain) and US are widely acknowledged as being the two biggest potential markets for commercial drones.
All told, it’s a remarkably exciting time for to be a UAV operator. But in order to make the most of the drone boom, operators need to be ready.
As business opportunities increase, so does competition. For some, ambitions don’t become a lasting reality. According to ARPAS (Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems), as quoted in the Financial Times, some 40% of companies granted a commercial UAV license do not seek renewal when it runs out. That figure can be interpreted a number of ways, but the upshot is that many businesses aren’t embracing drone technology in a sustainable way.
Perhaps fledgling operators are dipping their toes into the water rather than fully committing – although with only two hours flight time in the last 3 months to get your PfCO, time commitments shouldn’t be a problem.
In addition, many aspiring drone entrepreneurs stop proactively developing their skills after they’ve got their licence to operate. It’s hard to say if that correlates with the 40% drop-out figure, but clearly a large number of UAV start-ups have only the bare minimum of qualifications.
As Amanda Rosewarne, Director of CPD accreditation and research at the CPD Standards Office, explains, big ambitions in the commercial drone market need to be backed up by serious skills and knowledge investment – and CPD is a platform to make that happen.
“Those working with drones need to be right at the front end of the game to understand how the commercial use of the technology is developing,” she says.
David: Hello, I’m David Johnson. Welcome to another edition of Coptrz TV. In my hand, I have my PFCO. But what is a PFCO and how can Coptrz help you get yours? I know a man who’s inside who can tell us everything we need to know. Let’s go meet him.
John: Hello, my name is John Moreland. I’m the lead course instructor for Coptrz.
David: What is a PFCO?
In June 2016, a small team set off from the UK to undertake an ambitious scientific survey of Iceland’s Flaájökull glacier. Their goal was to accurately map how much the glacier moved and melted in a very short period, so they could discover how weather affected its stability. This meant the team had to collect a huge volume of precise data in only three short weeks.
The project was self-funded by a young team on a shoestring budget, not an academic or specialist organisation. The team thought that drone technology could capture the data, but they didn’t know if it was possible in such a short time with tight cost constraints.