April 8, 2015
SkySpecs has taken on the drone industry in an innovating way. Their flagship product, Guardian, is basically a drone add-on. It works as a co-pilot that senses obstacles and takes over flight control to prevent collisions. It allows the drone to be piloted even when the pilot doesn’t have a direct line of sight.
The company envisions many uses for their products and hopes to one day help make drones accessible to everyone. We got a chance to ask Co-Founder & CEO, Danny Ellis, some questions about drones, and starting up.
The team at SkySpecs does something called Fly Fridays where they spend Friday afternoons taking a break from the software and circuit boards to actually go out and fly drones. It gives them something to look forward to, and perhaps helps with inspiration as well. Ellis also says that when he needs some personal motivation he heads outdoors and flies. It’s rare that an entrepreneur, or any business-minded person, spends their hard-earned relaxation time with the same product that dominates their work time. This guy is seriously passionate about his drones. I suppose that’s a good thing, given the business he’s in. He always keeps in mind “when things get hard, I just remember that I wouldn’t want to be working on anything else.”
Doing the Dirty Jobs
According to the SkySpecs website:
“Critical infrastructure requires periodic inspections that are dull, dirty, and dangerous. Drones are ideal tools to improve safety and reduce the cost for these inspections. However, drones have yet to significantly impact these inspection markets due to the high-skill required to pilot such collision-prone flights. SkySpecs’ Guardian allows inspectors to fly with confidence in close-proximity to these assets.”
The product has yet to launch, but it seems the product could have applications beyond what they’ve already come up with. They’ve already had several inquiries about using the technology to inspect sewer systems. The way it’s done now is by having people gear up in hazmat suits and manually walk the sewers. Drone technology could definitely make this job easier, safer, and cleaner.
No Thanks, San Francisco
Danny claims that one piece of advice he was told over and over again was that to have a successful startup, he’d have to move the company to San Francisco. He ignored this advice and firmly stayed put (except for a brief stint in NYC for Techstars). “In today’s connected world you can have the same advantages as the Bay area with the right drive and persistence.”
SkySpecs is currently based in Ann Arbor, MI, where they get to enjoy a much lower cost of living (drones aren’t cheap!), and take advantage of the resources (read: 3D printers as well as human talent) that the University of Michigan has to offer. For now, it’s worth dealing with the brutal Michigan winters.
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