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Building a Cutting Edge Drone Technology Company: Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Jun 22nd 2022

Sramana Mitra: Did you learn that there was this segment that has this need in the shipping segment?

Tom Walker: Port and port security. The problem at that time was there were so many industries that we knew could use it. I’ll give you an example from the insurance industry. A storm comes through an area and they’re sending inspectors to walk around and assess the damage. We knew that we could put a drone out and capture all of this in high resolution. We just knew the insurance industry was going to embrace us.

What this created was valuable data for which there were no pre-existing processes. They had traditionally done things the same way. They all had a process in which that data was infused. It just worked. What we were doing was going out and capturing this data and then what? One insurance company was paying us to fly all of these operations and then we provided them with all the data.

A week later, they sent out claims people to redo the work because nobody had figured out how to use this new source of data. That helped us understand to start working with customers to explain what we can collect, how we can collect, and then develop a process for ingesting, processing, and using that data first. We saw this in the cell tower industry.

Sramana Mitra: The term is whole product as opposed to just one piece of the product.

Tom Walker: It’s like having the very best of one of 16 ingredients for a pie. It doesn’t make the pie.

Sramana Mitra: What industry did you go after?

Tom Walker: We were going after everything at that time. There were all these projections that the drone industry is going to be a $64-billion industry. The only two occupations that can be wrong all the time and keep their jobs are weather forecasters and analysts in the drone industry. They were always wrong about when the inflection point was going to happen.

Sramana Mitra: In terms of best practices, it’s always a good idea to choose the industry. Every industry has its own workflow. You can’t build a workflow for every single use case. You have to pick a large enough use case where you can build a substantial business. What I’m trying to understand is at what point did you key into a workflow or use case?

Tom Walker: That occurred in 2019 after the pandemic began. The pandemic was a very unfortunate event that was very positive for our industry. First off, a lot of those things that we were talking about where we knew drones could work, there were a whole variety of factors that were blockers for the industry.

When the pandemic happened and people couldn’t travel and do inspections, we had people reaching out to us from very specific verticals. It cleared all the minutiae away. There was a question for us of whether they would continue that once the pandemic went away. In the first year of the pandemic, we had a 1,100% growth. It was dramatic.

Because the pandemic was protracted, those people who were using us as a temporary stop-gap measure were forced by circumstances to evolve their processes. Now we are a part of those processes – cell tower inspection, pavement inspection, building inspection, roof, and agriculture.

Sramana Mitra: You’re getting interest and adoption in all these sectors.

Tom Walker: All of those sectors. It’s sustained because they were forced to give it a look and figure out a new process. That triple-digit growth continued on to today. Our projected growth this year is 1,705%.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Building a Cutting Edge Drone Technology Company: Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp
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