The conversation about consolidating UAV software has been generally focused on how to make drone operations more efficient. There is no doubt that being able to safely, quickly, and effectively plan, execute, and analyze data collected from a drone is extremely important, especially with a constantly shifting regulatory landscape. However, it is only part of what a successful drone operation or business requires—there is the business and customer relations side that is often overlooked. For drone companies looking to scale their operations and run an effective business, the challenge of integrating business workflows with flight operations hasn’t really been explored in the UAV sector. Dronecloud is changing that conversation by merging flight operations management with business management into one software platform.
Drone as a Service (DaaS) continues to be an important business model for the future of UAV. DaaS companies provide businesses with an alternative to pouring time and money into developing their own internal UAV department. And with 66% of companies utilizing a drone service provider for some or all of their operations, having a solution that marries flight planning with business operations has promising implications for enabling DaaS efforts. Platforms like Dronecloud offer these types of businesses a way to scale and streamline their processes to better meet the needs of their clients.
The development of Dronecloud came about organically from a need from its founders. They were frustrated with juggling multiple software platforms and workflows to plan and execute their flights and conduct their business. They wanted something that could help them manage every part of their UAV operation from flight planning and data acquisition to project management and client relations. When they were unable to find a pre-made solution that fit their needs, they decided to develop a platform of their own. This is what became Dronecloud—a fully integrated flight and business operations software with client portal interface.
Recently, Dronecloud announced that they now offer LAANC integration with their software, adding even more value to their solution. We were able to speak with Co-founder of Dronecloud, Dave Bush, to learn more about their company’s solution and how it is streamlining UAV business processes.
Danielle Gagne: Can you tell us about your background and how that led you to develop Dronecloud?
Dave Bush: We all came from operational backgrounds and working in a busy and fast-growing UK based drone service company where the necessity to collaborate and organize internal and external work across multiple international boundaries led to us to develop Dronecloud.
There was and still is nothing on the market that would handle the project management side, client communications and all the necessary procedural tasks required to run a well-oiled, compliant operation. By developing Dronecloud, we made life a lot easier for ourselves.
Dronecloud states that what makes it unique is that it integrates business and technical tools on a single platform. Can you tell us a little bit about why Dronecloud went this route, how they work together, and what value this offers the customer?
As previously mentioned, we identified early on that using a combination of manual and semi-automated processes, software, and subscriptions was slowing us down. We developed Dronecloud with the intention of containing all the elements of the workflow such as client communication, pricing, flight planning, equipment, maintenance, data QA and so on within each job.
The value to the business owner or operational teams is that by following a simple workflow, much of the compliance tasks are automatically built out and exportable. Everyone across a team and their client get the overview at every stage of the job. There really isn’t anything else that does that at this point.
The value to the end client is significant, they can login to the client portal and commission work directly, allowing them to have a clear view of each stage of the process. The advantages of this become fully realized when you scale many jobs across many geographic areas. The result is increased trust through engagement during the work and increased loyalty through ease of use.
Overall there are dramatic time savings for operators and their clients.
How have clients responded to the client portal?
They love it! From clients with only one or two jobs to those trying to keep track of a large portfolio of jobs, this feature is ideal. Another benefit to both clients and operators is that communication around a job happens within Dronecloud so you get rid of lengthy email trails. In many scenarios, you completely do away with phone calls and emails, allowing both the business and the client to focus on the job that needs to get done—safely and properly, but most importantly, fully tracked and logged. The overwhelming response from clients is just how well cared for they feel through that process. In any business, communication is key and Dronecloud is a step-change.
We have been seeing the development of a number of consolidated cloud-based solutions but, as you’ve pointed out in one of your press releases “the industry is still using multiple disconnected, disparate tools and spending twice as long on the admin of drones and operations as they need to.” Why do think that is and how do you think Dronecloud can attract those businesses like others haven’t been able to?
Looking at other industries, its quite common for features and solutions to develop in an early stage industry like this, consolidation just hasn’t been achieved to any useable degree to date.
At Dronecloud, we’re looking at the best features in this and other industries and integrating where we can to build the broadest platform possible.
As to attracting businesses, we know there is a need from first-hand experience and from our colleagues and peers in the industry. Of course, managing the regulatory side of a drone operation and creating a quality management system that can improve the safety culture of an operation is of paramount importance and that is our core goal. However, running a successful and scalable business is equally as important. Dronecloud enables this.
What other industries have you looked at for your model?
We have looked across several industries with mature SaaS models but choosing one, I would say we have learned from retail the most. We’ve seen how ecommerce used to be handled through one ecommerce pay gate on a website, and on the backend, there was a single excel sheet. Nowadays, there are all-in-one business management solutions that handle everything from stock, customer relations, management, accounting, eBay APIs, and so on. We have experience in that area and have learned a great deal from seeing these develop from early stage to maturity.
If I were a company that was interested in consolidation of my tools, but was hesitant to let go of the applications and processes I am used to, what might you tell me? How might Dronecloud help with that transition?
Dronecloud has been designed to take users through a beautifully simple workflow, creating a fool-proof safety story along the way. The onboarding process has been baked in from the beginning, so while Dronecloud is going to be different from your existing workflow, the transition will be easy and likely very refreshing.
In terms of service, we are focused on providing the personal touch, the lines are always open to help every business make the transition and we value every customer as an opportunity to feedback and improve.
Many people in the industry are trying to move out of the early adopter phase of drone technology, what are some of the roadblocks to this and how do you think Dronecloud can attract the early majority to drone technology?
Our view is that the early adopters are in play and doing well. The early majority are keen to adopt drone tech but are often being held back by complexity, and as a consequence, the industry is possibly at risk of not delivering against its lofty expectations. In many cases, drone ops are still being run as “innovation projects” rather than businesses. The key roadblocks as we see it are a slightly fragmented industry, a lack of integration, and possibly a lack of a coherent strategy from users.
We believe that providing the platforms and systems that anchor the technology to actual business needs will be one of the ways to removing these roadblocks. If we simplify the processes, we will help provide that pathway to maturity. For us, bringing the customer into the value chain is also key, moving drone adoption from innovation into a strategic roadmap, providing ‘industrialized’ products and platforms that act as a base for growing drone operations.
Which industries do you think will best benefit from your solution?
We feel that anyone with a drone business or operation will benefit from the things we have already discussed. The project management elements we’ve got, the ability manage teams, the ability to easily develop an ecommerce solution for commissioning drone work of any kind makes it applicable to a majority of drone operations. The advantages can be seen with any business, but it works incredibly well as teams scale, as the complexity and demand get bigger.
There is an increasing demand for ‘drones as a service’ (DAS) right now, how might your platform enable companies to develop and run these kinds of services?
We would certainly agree with this, and it’s an area we are focusing on. We are very close to delivering full network capability, which will open this up for anyone who is using external subcontractors. Most businesses will have to use subcontractors at some point, so curating and developing trusted networks and managing that workflow on multiple levels is going to be key to scaling for a lot of businesses.
How do you see Dronecloud adapting with and for the future of drone technology?
Dronecloud is built to be a hub, it is designed to be a full integrator of the best technology into the existing value chain and workflow. We are alert to the market and regulations with a firm eye on the future including UTM and increased automation across many parts of the workflow. We are developing from the ground up with the goal of being a key enabler to future technology.
If there is one thing you would like people who are considering your solution to know about Dronecloud, what would that be?
At the risk of being cliché, everyone says this, I know, but Dronecloud will dramatically save time and create great efficiencies, it really can provide one place to run an entire drone operation. The lasting impression I would want to give is that Dronecloud is developing fast with our eye on the long-term vision of drone operations, it’s a really good time to come onboard. We’re ready for the future.