It’s 2017; time to stop selling the drone to our clients.
The drone industry has gone from hobby to pro-hobby to full-blown commercial but the vast majority of us still see the drone as the important part of the business plan. Drones are cool, don’t get me wrong but the real value is often derived long after the 15 minutes it was in the air. The media, the general public, industry experts, analysts and even us operators still tend to think of the drone as the business and the sale of drone flight time as the revenue model. Think of it as a ‘Power by the Hour’ sales model. At AeroVision Canada, we’ve come to a different conclusion, however; We sell data that has been analyzed and exploited to achieve maximum value for our client because really, the drone was just a tool and it could easily be replaced by the next great marvel of flight. But what separates the drone business from the data business (captured by drone) is the deliverable.
So what’s the difference? Well, look at the overused and often generalized deliverable our industry likes to throw around called “Mapping”. There are two ways to go about doing this:
Option 1: Take a couple of hundred vertically shot images from 150 feet, evenly spaced of course, run them through a stitching program that will merge all the images together and BAM, you (typically) have a 2D map with absolutely no true accuracy or relevance other than “a big picture made of small pictures”.
Option 2: Same initial steps as the above but with a few more algorithms run during processing, use of ground control points to help you tie it to the provincial (or state) grid which makes the map relevant on all 3 axis and accurate to within an inch or two, maybe some contour lines at 0.5m intervals to illustrate the terrain, oh and the whole thing can also be flipped to 3D, imported into a CAD environment for further use in a BIM process, all while being used to make real world decisions by multiple departments of the same or multiple organisations.
We sell data that has been analyzed and exploited to achieve maximum value for our client…
Both versions, by the way, are right (we lean heavily towards #2 however). But it comes down to what the client wants to pay for. I digress but I think you see where I’m going with this. Option 1 essentially sold pictures taken from a drone. Option 2 sold high-value data that just happened to be taken from a drone; could have been a kite or blimp. The point being that our clients don’t care that we used an expensive flying robot. They care a lot about the value of data, its quality and often, it’s repeatability.
Looking forward in the industry, will we collectively continue to sell drones as a service, battling the technological arms race we seem to be living in where the only way to move forward is to have the latest and greatest drone (which still just carries the sensor) OR will we start selling ourselves as data experts who offer clients around the world actionable, high-value reports that shorten their evaluation to action time, saving precious time and money while enhancing safety and productivity?
We sell data, not flight time, and definitely not “pretty pictures”.