Measure CEO Brandon Torres Declet on the UAV Industry, Regs and Drones as a Business

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DroneLife recently spoke with Mr Torres Declet, CEO and co-founder of Measure. Following is a summary of the conversation.

In 2014, Brandon Torres Declet was an attorney working in the private sector developing unmanned systems policy for the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. He became fascinated by the information gathering potential of UAVs and began to contemplate what could be done in the commercial sector. At that time, DJI was becoming ascendant in the consumer drone market. A number of companies were becoming involved in developing software solutions for aerial analytics. Contrary to where everyone else was going (ie hardware and software developments), Declet went in a different direction. It was Declet’s belief that what enterprises would eventually be looking for would be a “a full stack turnkey solution.” Measure, the “drones as a service” company, was born, co-founded by Torres Declet and Robert Wolf.

And Torres Declet says, “I have been proven right on this.”

Their reasoning was that big companies would not want to take on the challenges of hardware and software selection, pilot recruitment, the learning curve, and compliance measures imposed by the ever-changing FAA regulatory framework. According to Torres Declet, their clients “simply tell us ‘here is our infrastructure – here are data points we want to collect.’ We then provide the resources, moving pilots and equipment around the country as needed.” Torres Declet believes this is the direction that the industry is taking and that the service business model is a sustainable one.

The company is poised to grow. They raised $15 million in a Series B round of financing led by Cognizant Technology Solutions for a total of $20.5 million raised to date. This past month they acquired Pilatus Unmanned, a firm that delivered UAV solutions to the public safety, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy markets. In acquiring Pilatus Unmanned, Measure expanded their client base, but also important to Declet was bringing their CEO Josh Kornoff, onto the Measure team. “Kornoff is a pioneer in the commercial drone industry,” said Declet ”and will head Measure’s engineering team. Josh was involved in the [drone] space long before anyone else, building his own drones, and over the years has has become an expert in putting together drone solutions for customers ranging from law enforcement to Hollywood. He will ensure we have drone sensor combinations that will work for a specific business and we also now have a LA west coast operation.”

Measure, which offers drones as a service in four key areas (telecommunications, media, energy, and AEC), is hardware and software agnostic says Declet. They craft solutions based on clients needs. He acknowledged, however, that the sales cycle is a bit challenging.

“This is a nascent industry. It’s just beginning. We believe the the service business model is sustainable and the direction this industry is taking. Market adoption is a challenge in all four verticals. Rolling out a nationwide service like this has never been done before. [We] have to make two sells: one on the fundamental value of UAV technology and a second on the service business model as the best way to take advantage of the technology.”

Declet notes that “Regulations are an issue.” He was among several CEOs from drone start ups that recently attended a session at the White House. “I was excited to go . . . while there, I stressed the need for regulatory flexibility. There is a difference between Measure and the Uber model others are practicing. There does not have to be a ‘one size fits all.’” Declet believes that the staff of the Office of Science and Technology was receptive to that. Declet cited the need for clarity regarding regulations as states and municipalities begin to weigh in. “The bottom line is that the FAA has authority over the airspace. A big question is whether states and municipalities have legal authority to enact their own regulations. We are not for or against it, but let’s get some clarity on this. We live in a regulated industry [and there is] no such thing as rolling the FAA. The FAA is moving judiciously with safety as a priority.”

Touching on the capability of autonomous flight, Declet said, “I just shake my head when I hear about autonomous flight. In the future autonomy will take on a much larger role, but it is something we are working towards. Autonomous operations are much different from automation. A truly autonomous flight would enable a drone to move out of the way of, say, a bird. Right now a drone is not going to move out of the way of a bird. Can we plot some points with an iPad and fly – yes, but that is automation not autonomous flight.”

Declet continued, “A lot is going to change in next twelve months. This will be a  breakout year. . . but you need to be focused 5 – 10 years from now. Don’t bet on dramatic regulatory changes. We look at who’s got the best products. That is where we are going to go.”

In closing, Declet summed up Measure, saying, “We focus on what commercial customers want. We are not Uber for drones. We provide a standardized, professional, high value operation that can fly anywhere at anytime. Our competitors offer a shadow of that.”


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