DRONELIFE Exclusive: DroneDeploy’s Founders on Market Shifts, Enterprise Scale, and What Customers Want Now

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DroneDeploy‘s newest release – due to launch in 10 days – was announced this morning at the DroneDeploy 2019 conference.  This newest version is a feature rich enterprise solution: what DroneDeploy describes as a “complete drone cloud.”  With features that support an enterprise mission from flight plan to insight sharing, the product showcases the development and maturity of the drone industry and the DroneDeploy platform.  DRONELIFE talked to co-founders Mike Winn and Jono Millin on how they got to this point: and what’s next for leading platform in drone mapping, and the drone industry.

The Evolution from Drone Mapping to Enterprise Solution

DroneDeploy’s numbers are impressive, to say the least.  With more than 100,000,000 acres processed into more than 1,000,000 maps, the company has the reached the critical mass to know what customers need – and to provide it.  That’s the reason behind the platform’s evolution from drone maps to enterprise solution. “The story is pretty simple – our customers are asking for it,” says Winn.  Over the years, the platform has developed to provide flight planning, fleet management, AI powered processing with survey-grade accuracy, 3D modeling, orthomosaics, and more.  As the features developed, industrial customers have started to take more advantage of the insights that aerial data provides – across very large organizations.  “Our customers are deploying this so broadly,” says Winn.  “And they want one platform to manage all of the data and do all of these things… As the amount of data grows, you see DroneDeploy becoming a system of record for these customers.”

Millin says that they’ve seen customers asking for help with processes far removed from the actual drone flight.  “We’re trying to help enterprise customers simplify the back office work… Now we see teams of people going through this workflow.  We need to make sure  that the pilot can do the flying, and a whole different team can do the analysis.  So having all of it hosted in that single platform is important.”

That being said, Millin says that their partnerships and integrations – the DroneDeploy App Marketplace was one of the first of its kind – are still a critical component of their strategy.  “We’ll never be everything to everybody. That’s where those partnerships are really important,” he says.  “We will maintain that best of breed approach too.  But we want to meet the needs of our customers.”

What’s Changed for the Industry

Enterprise scale has been a major theme for several years in the drone industry: when it will happen, how it will happen, and who will benefit.  From Winn’s perspective, enterprise scale has been a natural progression over time.   “One of the things that has happened over the last few years is that the one guy who championed the drone program in an enterprise 5 years ago has now been promoted to be the supervisor, and he’s now managing teams of people,” says Winn.  “We now have multiple customers with hundreds of drones in their programs – and they’re looking for ways to make those programs more productive.”

Productivity, Accessibility

Productivity and accessiblity are two goals that the DroneDeploy founders repeat several times.  It’s been a passion for the team since we first started speaking with them several years ago: to make drone data accessible in every way, from ease of use to pricing; and to make more use of it.  (Several years ago, Winn told DRONELIFE that one of his goals for the platform was to simplify the product  to “one button processing.”  They’re down to 4 – and for some operations, even fewer.)

“What’s great about technology is that a single farmer can use the same technology as a Fortune 500 company.  Our vision and our mission continue to be relevant: we believe in a drone on every jobsite.  To get there, they need to be more accessible and more productive,” he says.

What’s Next for DroneDeploy, and the Industry

Sheer volume gives DroneDeploy an insight into industry trends.  One of them is the growth in new verticals.  While Agriculture was one of DroneDeploy’s first target verticals, and remains important, Energy is now the fastest growing sector.  The ROI for the energy sector has been proven, and as the proof of concept phase moves into the implementation phase, those large enterprise companies are building out significant drone programs.

Winn says that continued innovation in hardware has been a tailwind for the industry and the company.  “Drones are getting smarter,” he points out, “and that’s going to enable our customers to be even more productive.” DroneDeploy announced a partnership with Skydio this week, as Skydio introduced their new Dock platform.  The automation the Skydio platform offers is the industry changing trend that Winn sees right now.  While fully humanless flight isn’t yet accomodated by regulations in the U.S., automated workflows still have the potential to be game-changing.  “It’s about that accessibility,” says Winn.  “It’s the ease of use that it brings.  It eliminates steps.”

For DroneDeploy, the future path is clear.  “We’re going to continue to listen to our customers, and our customers are going to continue to grow in size,” says Winn.


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