Drone to 1K Season 1 / Episode 5: David Dengler from Robotic Air Services


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David is a pilot with Robotic Air Services, a startup in Southern California that focuses on the construction industry—providing drone services using a subcontractor business model that, David says, works. Let him tell you how and why…

Two yrs ago, David was working in construction with architecture background. Drones came on the scene and he saw need in as-builts and during construction needs. He became excited and started to put some interest into drones. Are they effective? Can they deliver? Could he create a profitable company? The following year, he built up the company which went full-time in June 2018 and David never looked back. It DID take his own initial investment (he took Drone Launch’s Part107), and he is now profitable. He goes to network events to educate people on what can be done with drones. It works—with a LOT of legwork.

David says if you’re going to get into an industry, you need to know how to approach a niche market. For example, architecture is narrow, and marketing takes a lot of thought. He advises that you laser-focus on that. When he tells people he’s a drone pilot, people ask if he works for the army. He responds that he flies a “friendly” drone and is in construction. When he explains further, he says they are amazed. Everyone he talks to leads to something or someone else. When he started out, he had his equipment ready and his business ready. He had a LONG conversation with his CPA. David says—for him—he needed to cut the cord as an employee. If not, he would never have bitten the bullet. He DOES say, “Don’t do what I did, don’t jump off the board unless you know how to swim!” He says what he has going on right now works 75%; he has other plans for the rest of his success plan—risks never go away.

Start-Up Equipment

His initial equipment was a MavicPro. He jumped in understanding what he wanted to achieve with mapping and point clouds and that was the best drone at that time. He flew his drone for months before committing to the business. He did a lot of investigation by flying a few hundred hours over a few months. He did mapping, flying with intention of creating a point cloud, which is when you fly drone over a site in a grid pattern. He knew targeting a 3D model was going to be the goal. He had to be able to crunch data or deliver a CAD drawing. He says he got great training from Drone Launch Academy, especially as pertains to understanding the weather to fly the best pattern. The orthomosaic map is only the first level.

What’s Happening Now?

David wants to get into mining and civil construction. He is educating his current clients that the imagery is not just a flat map, but how they can use more of the data. Mapping usually hands off to general contractor. In one of his client’s cases, a general contractor questioned the civil engineer, so he hired David to fly a drone and map the site. He found out that, in some cases, the measurements were off by almost 3 feet. With the drone imagery the measurements are nailed more accurately. He sees this type of work as great opportunity because every time you are called in to work, you can educate people as to how much the drone can help them.

“Education is the biggest thing in the drone business”

Where Are The Clients?

Getting clients is about talking to people and also about how and where to find business. David had to understand what he wanted to accomplish and the niche market, for him—architecture, engineering and construction. You don’t just buy a drone and get business. You have to put work and effort into it. He said you have to learn everything about an industry to talk to people on their level. If you are going into cinematography, he hopes you know how to take great pictures. It’s not putting the drone into the air that’s the hard part, it’s about knowledge about how to make it work as a business. David thinks through everything before the flight. It’s already been set up and checked so when the flight comes, it’s just the push of a button.

First Projects & Growth

Since going full-time, company started to make money positively in December, passing investment level in January. It only took two months for investment to be re-couped. He doesn’t want to put out numbers because in Southern CA, it’s expensive to live and work. He does say that his first bit of work was done pro-bono, but with organizations that matter. He worked with an organization that preserves portions of land. He asked about the quality of their map imagery. He offered to fly and provide imagery because they are a volunteer association. He says he wanted to begin by giving back FIRST before he focused on developing clients and his own business. That got his name out there and also allowed him to practice in the real world, delivering real world work to real world people. When he delivered, he asked who they knew that he could talk to. Doing that work gave him a portfolio of real work.

David’s favorite part of having his own business is being his own boss. There’s nothing better. That also means you are responsible for yourself and it takes self-responsibility. He has to make his own rules, book business. If you crash, you are your own repairman. You are in complete control of your destiny. It’s great and can be terrifying. Yet he wouldn’t change much nor does he regret much. He has been advised to seek venture capital, but then he’d have to focus more on the business, but then you lose autonomy. If you start a corporation, again it goes back to having a really great niche. David says what he is just another contractor—HE can go out and talk to people, that is good enough. Running his own business just makes it less complicated. He just wants to run and grow a good business. His long research period told him real money in drones would be in construction and inspections…simply because it will save money.

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Episode Transcript

00:01     So we’re recording there and I’m also going to record here just as a backup in case I lose it. So, um, alright, well let’s get started. Basically all I’m going to do like a prerecorded, after we’re done with all this, I’ll do like an in my own intro and outro, but um, to kind of lead into the interview. Uh, but let’s go ahead and get started. So, um, all right. So David, how are you doing? Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Uh, so obviously I’m David Young and David, if you’d like to introduce yourself, uh, to everyone else listening, uh, tell us your name, um, your company. Just a quick intro about yourself.

00:45     Sure, no worries. My name’s also David. My last name is dangler. I run a company called robotic air. We’re here in southern California and we primarily focus on the construction industry.

00:56     Cool. Awesome. All right, so I wanna dive like some of these other interviews I’ve done. Uh, Kinda just go back to the beginning and tell us a little bit about how you first got into drones. Um, you know, what first sparked your interest when you first start playing with drones and, and, uh, when did you start turning that into more of a commercial?

01:18     Sure. Sounds great. Well it was about, uh, roughly speaking about maybe two, two and a half years ago, I was working for a software company and my prior experience is architecture. I’ve been practicing architecture for a good, I would say about 16, 17 years here in southern California building all kinds of things, residential, commercial and so forth. And I saw various needs weren’t being met by the architecture community. Anyway, long story short, about two and a half years ago, I saw drones really, really begin to come on the scene and I saw one heart, maybe two or three and I think it really help out on one of those is what we call as-builts in architecture, what’s their existing and then during the construction process that could extremely be helpful. And that got me really excited. I began to study about them, put about a good, I would say about a good solid six months of really hard research into it.

02:25     And a lot of that was on paper studying or could we do with these things, are they really effective? Can they deliver what they, what they say? And then what would it take to actually make a company and to be profitable and be running. And after about six months of that, I saw GI, you can really do this and it can really help. So then the next year after that was spent basically building up my company, figuring out how to make a company, how I was going to be, what niche market I was going to go after. And then slowly build up equipment at the LLC, get everything up and running, and then basically turn the key and say I’m doing this full time. And the full time thing happened about June, 2018 and I really never looked back after that, really jumped in full time. Now it did take a little bit of investment in my own builder to push it.

03:25     That’s true. But I am happy to say after all the investment and after all everything that I did to get it up and running, including drug launch, um, now here we are in 2019 and it’s actually a profitable company working and making money. It’s great. Yeah, it works. It actually does work. Now that’s not to say that there’s not a lot of work that goes into it. I mean, literally as we’re doing this interview, I’m in my car in between two gigs. I’m going to do a network event right now where I’m just basically going out to, it’s a subcontractors event here in southern California that I’m just going to go there and mingle and network with subcontractors, educating them on what we can do with drones and how it benefits them. So it works, but there’s a lot of leg work to do.

04:19     Yeah, I’m sure that’s, but that’s not bad. I mean, having your own company, how great is that? Yeah. Now what part of southern California are you in?

04:26     I am in a city called Temecula is pretty much smack dab between San Diego and Los Angeles, but in Lam.

04:37     Gotcha. Yeah. Orange County. Yeah. Yeah, I was gonna say, I just actually flew back from a San Diego desert. Yeah. Cool, cool, cool. Um, that’s awesome. So yeah, so I’m a little jet lag, so if I look a little, uh, look a little sleepy, it’s fine. Um, so, so, so you just basically had this experience in architecture and you already had a lot of that knowledge of industry, what people need and you were just putting it together with, oh, drones can help and, and then just took the plunge into it. Now tell us a little bit about when you first got started. I mean, it sounded like you said you did your kind of planning and you really investigated it to make sure this was, hey, this is something worth doing. Um, yeah. Uh, what, tell us about like maybe the first week you decided to do it, like full time, like what was your day to day like and were you stressed or was it like, oh, this is actually easier than I thought, like to walk us through that? Well, I’m still stressed, but no worries. Um,

05:41     the one thing there, there’s a couple things. It’s, I, I know a lot about architecture and I know a lot about construction. And I think that’s a really key thing. If you’re going to get into an industry, I think you really need to know how you’re gonna approach in, in my case, a really niche market. I mean, because let’s say you were going to use drones for cinematography, that’s pretty broad. Yeah. You can go after TD news, a real estate, all kinds of different things where you can shoot that. But if you’re going to have to architecture, that’s really narrow. So if Yale sort of filtered down, how are you going to do your marketing? And all those kinds of things takes a lot of thought, a lot of, a lot of for knowledge about how you’re going to do that. So one of my pieces of advice would be really narrow down what market you’re going after and really laser beam focus on it.

06:43     And that’s going to help you more than anything else. So, so, but my, my first day, uh, I was, I was working for a company and I just made the cut off day, June 30th fam and decided, okay, I’m going to commit to it. You know, you know, your dad picks you up and throws Jesus in this phone call. You’re going to learn that the only way you’re going to do it. So I just jumped in and went for it full blast. Um, and because that was going to force me to do it. Now you got doesn’t make me nervous. Yeah. Is it a lot of work? Yeah. Is it the first time ever starting up my own company? Full time? Yeah. All that kind of stuff. It’s all there, but, but yeah. Yeah. But the great thing is it’s such a new market. It’s such an amazing market. And anybody that you tell what it is that you do, all they want to do is say, wow, what is that? You’re a drone pilot. Do you work for the army? No, no, no, no. I’m not one of those guys. Drone pilots. I probably one of those nice little friendly drugs. Oh really? Oh, well, nope. Oh, so you worked for like a new, uh, you know, you worked for like channel five or something like that? No, no, no. I do construction. They’re like, ah,

08:05     any idea how the yeah.

08:07     And then they have no idea the complexity of what we do. And then I start talking about things like a mapping and photogrammetry and delivery point clouds delivering cad and BIM models and they’re like, their mind is completely blown. They’re like, I have no idea we could do that today. I was like, that isn’t even today. That was yesterday. We’re moving even beyond that. Yeah. So, so it’s very exciting to talk to people. I like, like I said, I can’t get to today’s networking event. Um, cause it’s always great. Everybody even talked to you get about three leads that you know now you’re going to have another lunch with somebody. It’s going to lead to something else. It’s just awesome.

08:49     Yeah. So, so in that first week, did you already have clients, let’s say before you quit your job, did you already have clients lined up that you are going to be working for? Or did you already have your equipment or are you just like, I’m just quitting today and then I’m just going to figure it out?

09:05     I have a little bit lined up. I didn’t have clients as in the furniture category, but I had some that were saying, when you’re ready to go, let us know when you’re ready to go and then we’ll maybe be ready to go. Those kinds of things. I did have my equipment ready and I had my business ready. I think that’s the big thing. Well, I already had my part one oh seven. I had my LLC, the bank accounts, all that kind of, all the, all the mechanicals business-wise. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was, I had a long, long conversation with my CPA and I got everything everything could and Copa said before I decided, okay. And everybody’s different, you know? Um, for me, I knew the only way I was going to be able to actually do it was literally bye. Cutting the cord because if I stayed connected [inaudible] uh, you know, if I stayed as quote unquote an employee of another company, I knew I would just kind of whittle away at the months and years and everything would go by and I wouldn’t actually do it. I, for myself, I had a cup of court because that forced me into having to do it then once I had to do it. Now.

10:22     No, just say it provides a lot of urgency for you to get your, get your budding geared. Exactly. Although, yeah, I was gonna say it, like you said, I would say it’s a big giant

10:33     claimer dog

10:34     through what I did. I was going to say

10:40     character that I have, because if you jump off the board and you’re about to go into the ocean, boy, you better know how to swim or you know, it’s going to go really, really bad.

10:50     Yeah. And I know a lot of little, they may just, they may only want to do this as a side project where it’d be, I feel like it’s harder to, uh, if you don’t have all that time to invest to really become the expert in it, that niche field that you need to be, but um, the less risky option to kind of, you know, one foot in the water kind of deal. But um, but it’s awesome that you were able to do that and that it worked for you though.

11:15     Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well it’s, it’s not 100% yet. I would say I’m about in that sort of 75 to 80%. It is working. It’s on its way to working. It’s paying all of my bills. Yeah. Everything’s going cool. I in my mind have much larger ambitions shoot until I achieve those, then I’ll give you the big thumbs up. Yeah, it’s worth it.

11:42     I, that’s honestly, I feel like that’s any business though. You get into it, you get go and things are working and then you’re like, oh, but I want to be here and I’m here. So you feel like there’s always this, well, what if this happens? What if this? And then you get to that next bottle you like, oh, but I want to be here. Oh, actually there’s still all these risks. I don’t know if that’ll go away, you know?

11:59     Yeah, yeah. But, um,

12:04     yeah, every time you hit those black coves and you’re like sweet, and then you’re like, oh, but it’s up there now. I’ve got to go more. Yeah. That’s good. I mean, I think it’s good. You know, I think it’s always good to push yourself, obviously in into your half on end improvement choice. Um, but you know, also don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back for being able to, you know, getting to a place where a lot of people are afraid to try, you know? Um, so yeah. So when you went to go first start out, what kind of, uh, what kind of equipment did you get and what was your gear like for when you were doing these types of construction jobs?

12:39     Well, um, probably started out, we were, a lot of people started out with, I went with a maverick pro. Okay. I jumped in, which actually come to think about, I’d be a little bit more heavy than some people start out with. They have to go with a little bit less.

12:56     You’d be surprised how many people I hear that just, they just go straight for a medic pro and they’re just like, yeah, I’ll just get it.

13:02     Yeah. Yeah. Well see the thing was, I’m, I, I understood what I wanted to be able to achieve with mapping and delivering point clouds and those kinds of things. And the Mavic pro was really about the best pro-sumer well, if there was at that time to do a lot of experiments with, and believe me, I did a lot of experimenting before I jumped into this full time. I mean I did all kinds of things. Fields of of just vegetables or great vines.

13:35     So you had the drill on your own and you’re messing around with it and learning and learning and learning before you decided to go for month or month. Yeah, yeah. For months I, I flew the Nada,

13:45     well magic and I still one of my favorite trumps ever. Yeah. I love that little maverick. Pro flies really great. Delivers great content for what it, for what it is. Absolutely amazing. Yeah. So before I made any commitment to, to really going forward, I did a lot of investigation first a whole lot. I flew about couple of hundred hours with that thing over the course of quite a few months and mostly mostly doing mapping with or flying with the intent of creating a point cloud and from the Fleming clouds, you can do anything you want, but that was my real intent.

14:25    So real quick, there’s a lot of people on here, there’s a lot of people on here who probably are, are still a little fresh into this and they might not know what a point cloud is. You want to give them like the short version?

14:36    Well, well the point cloud is when you fly the drone, you fly over a site in a grid pattern and I’ll try to make this very, very general because there’s, there’s a few different platforms you can use, you know, fix 14 drone, deploy three VR just to name a few of them and it goes on and on. Um, these are all like cloud based services and they’re all really, really great. I mean just depends on what you’re doing. And I tried them all too. That was part of the experimental process. And because I come from the architectural background, I knew that targeting a three d model was going to be the goal. So what, so the point was, can I fly, can I deliver to the architect of free model? And the way that you do that is by using photogrammetry and photogrammetry if you bake, get down is taking a series of photos.

15:35     The software that our compares the photos and it looks at one point in two photos lines where that is in 3d space. Maybe it uses a third or fourth to confirm it and says, okay, that point as add x, y, Z in space. And that goes to the next point on the photograph. And he goes, okay, now this boy is that x, Y, Z in a certain space. Now that doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that we’re dealing with photographs that are in the range of seven to 10 megapixels coming off a 40 megapixel camera. And on some of the sites I fly, like the one that that I flew recently was a 42 acre site, which had almost 1400 photographs. That’s a lot of data to be able to crunch and to be able to crunch that data and give it to your client in a meaningful way.

16:31     Some clients just want the point cloud, they’re happy with that because they can have a team that can understand what that is. Other clients don’t want the point cloud, they want a model or they want a cad drawing that’s ready to go. Um, and down the road of my story, I, I filled those blanks in. But in the beginning of the story, I didn’t have those filled in and they weren’t really important. The important thing was Ken, I with this uh, Maverick crow, the fly more Combo that was $1,200 on best buy and not necessarily plugged plug but that just happened. Yeah, tens that the capable of delivering these things and in the end the answer was yes it has. It has a lot to do with understanding exactly how to fly the conditions, the fly, which actually plug intended. I have a lot to thank for drone launch academy because Oh the training that you guys gave me was spot on, you know, seven for the one oh seven a lot of that one oh seven applies to every day operations in every possible way.

17:44     I mean, you know, before you leave the house, check all the weather conditions you before that, once you’re talking to the client, you’re checking the level [inaudible] what airspace are we in? Alpha, Charlie, Bravo, whatever it is. You got to know where you are. Right. All of that plays into it cause you can’t do a thing until you know where you are or what the weather’s doing and then you know studying out the site which is going to be studying. The site’s going to be individual to what you’re saying practice is shouldn’t it be? No. For me, for me flying Nate, our camera straight down for lights and mapping, things like that. I just have to know the boundaries of the construction site. Then be able to lay it out, basically fly the best, most efficient [inaudible] pattern to capture everything on a after know about how those who know Ken was going to do all those kinds of things

18:35     in the, in the end it was being able to, to know that when I fly and every time I fly I’m gonna be able to get quality data that’s going to produce the big class because, because showing them the orthomosaic map, which is, which is actually a derivative of the point cloud, that’s the flattened out map of old photographs laid out flat is only the first level. I mean that’s just basically how like a satellite photo. But the thing that got me more involved in everything else is bullied. Yeah. The were the other products that they had. No idea that we can is, is, is what, it made it a doable thing for me.

19:18    Yeah. That’s awesome. So, so now would you say that your, your clients are a hundred percent kind of construction architecture related?

19:31     Uh, at the current moment? Yeah, because that’s, that’s exactly what I’m focusing on architecture, construction. But I’m getting ready to move into other fields. I’m not sure that I’m so much going to go into inspections, but I’m gonna probably get my toe into some mining and I would be looking at civil engineering, you know, roads and bridges and things like that. Cause that’s very similar to architecture and,

19:57     yeah. And you’re, yeah. And you’re probably producing a lot of the similar types of like similar applications, but just in a different field. Right. You’re still kind of doing the same point cloud man.

20:08     Yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. It’s practically speaking the same thing. A lot of the, a lot of the clients we’re currently dealing with are still just in that state of mind of looking at the imagery as construction progress. And My job right now is educating them to saying, Hey, you know what, this isn’t just a flat two d map. Let me show you what we’re really looking at here and being able to show them, um, for example, um, really? Okay. Yeah.

20:48     Yeah. One, two, three, one a more recent clients I have is a general contractor who took over the site from the grading earthworks guys. Right? It’s kind of simple to explain this to people. Um, when a site gets, when, when there’s a brand new site and nothing’s been done to it, the first people that go on the site are earthworks. In other words, these are the guys that take, let’s say a hillside and graded into level planes are road planes or surfaces that are going to be used to do the construction, right? General contractor typically doesn’t do that. That’s the grading guys. So the earthworks guys have come along, done that portion of the job and it was time for the general contractor to take over the site.

21:48     So they did the hand off the general contractors over at the site and he’s walking around the site and basically saying to himself, Hey, wait a second, something doesn’t feel quite right here. I don’t think that the cuts were done right. I mean, this, this, this seems a little bit higher than it should be. That seems a little bit lower. It doesn’t, you know, this road plan or this plot, you know. Anyway, he called me up and basically said, hey, can you fly this and give me an idea of, is this where the civil engineer who designed the site said it should be? And the short story is I flew to site and delivered to him, uh, the BIM model and it clearly showed that for the majority of the site, it was off by one foot, but there were many, many places that were off by as much as three feet.

22:43     Now that’s a huge miss. You’re going to try to build buildings and roads on top of all that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s minus three or plus three. I mean, that’s a, that’s a tremendous miss. So, you know, and I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, I’m just trying to solve problems. Right? So I, so we give this to the contractor. The contractor sees us. He goes, Oh wow, you saved my life because I have to go to, there’s the contractors now, the guy who has to go to the owner and say, wait a minute, things aren’t right. And then all of a sudden there’s a, he said, she said between the earthworks and the contractor now, because I went out there and I flew to site, there’s a digital, as I like to say, a digital twin of reality. So we know what’s really there versus what was intended to be there from the civil engineer.

23:36     So now the general contractor has the ability to say, well, wait a minute, this one is black and white of that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s, it’s pretty nailed down. And so now the general contractor can basically say, well, I took over the site, now we’ve got to make some changes. You are going to have to help me out a little bit of a funding, this, that and the other thing. And at that point he was completely sold. And that’s how a lot of this works. You know, you get called in, not necessarily you would get called into in these emergency situations, but you get called in to help solve a problem.

24:18     Yeah. And I think what you were saying before, earlier I’ve heard on, you know, several other people that we’ve interviewed so far, as you know, since the industry especially in construction, is well the technology and the applications are a little newer than people are used to working with. They just don’t realize the capabilities of how that, how this can help them. There’s an, you know, this, so much of your job is meeting people and educating them and saying, Hey, look what this can do for you. Look how much this can help you. And then once they understand that, it’s so much easier for them to be like, oh yeah, that’s, I need that.

24:51     Education is absolutely the biggest thing because, um, I mean, people see movies or whatever and they just think all of this has dreams and well, a lot of it is fantasy, but when you show them what the reality is and what you’re capable of doing and delivering, and, and actually the biggest thing, that timeframe that you can deliver something in absolute shocks them. Yeah. Because the difference between what a surveyor can deliver and what I can deliver it now, I’m not a surveyor. I’m not licensed. I can’t stamp anything. But the fact that we can deliver something that is in the neighborhood, depending on, not if we’re using grounds control, if is a ground control that we’re getting about half inch accuracy, we’re not using grande patrol, we’re about street sheet, but still sometimes three peat is plenty to be able to show what’s going on on the site.

25:49     And for the people, again, if people don’t realize what ground ground control points are at or just you’d lay out physical points that you can see in and you tag them and you use those kind of reference the photographs together so you’d know exactly kind of where those photographs line up with each other. Right. Almost like little targets on the ground.

26:07     There are absolutely targets on the ground. Yeah, exactly what they are. That can be done several different ways. I mean, they have the smart ones from Arrow points or you can, you can literally, I mean, we have, I have the ones where you go to home depot, buy a pizza. Well, I wouldn’t put the uh, you know, just put the stick on stickle on, uh, tiles that you would use in your bathroom. You just put those on there and you have ground control. Yeah, it’s really that simple. Uh, you don’t, you don’t have that super accuracy of, of knowing exactly where you are down to the half inch, but you’re gonna nail it down pretty close or, and at least you’re going to tighten up your site quite a bit. Now if you, if you combine that with something like the recharge s where you can put it on the ground control and actually get a latitude, longitude and z elevation, then you’re going to be real strong.

27:01     Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. So, so moving, so that’s, that’s great. So you got, you started it up, you’re getting those clients in and again, largely impart to I, you know, it sounds like two things. First off, you’re just intimate knowledge and research of the problems and applications available in that space. And then, you know, third, your ability to go out there and communicate that, right? You’re not afraid to, like you said, you’re about to go to another networking event and meet people and talk to people. And that’s just the way maybe talk about getting business a little. Cause that’s something a lot of people are like, okay, I got a drone. First off, you’ll have the misconception where they think, oh, if I own a drone, people are gonna want to hire me. Right? They gotta learn a skill on top of the drum. And then second or third I guess maybe is you have to know how to go get business, right? You got to know, okay, where are the problems? Who has the problems and who, how do I find them and talk to them and get them to, you know, higher my solutions. So maybe talk to us a little bit about that. Like what’s your, how do you, how do you get clients?

28:03     Well, that’s actually the biggest thing of all. I’m getting clients and for me, the, the whole idea of getting clients was understanding what I wanted to accomplish and the niche market. And for me, the niche market was obviously what we call the AEC industry, architecture, engineering, construction. Um, because that’s my background. Yeah. In, you’re absolutely right. You don’t just buy a drone and suddenly people call you, you know, fly a drone, start up a website and oh, I’m going to get loads of phone calls. No, that’s not true for anything in the world. Right. It takes, um, it takes work. It takes effort. I mean, you, you have to put work and effort into it to make it happen. And exactly, like you said, right now I, between activities, I’m sitting here in my car, which isn’t the optimal place to do the interview, but it’s one of those things when you got, you’re starting a business, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re doing it by yourself.

29:02     And it’s like I said in the beginning, you know, I just cut the cord and went out and did it. Which means you’re going to be in your car, you’re going to be driving around, going to be meeting people, you’re gonna be talking to people. You have to tell them what it is. You do how it is you do. If you’re, you know, if you’re going to go into the construction business like I did, then you’re going to have to learn everything about architecture, construction, general construction, subcontractors, the whole thing. They’re not to be able to understand the industry cause you got to talk to people on your level. If you’re going to go the other way, you’re going to go into cinematography. Wow. I hope you’re really good with a camera. I mean I hope you know, to set up a camera, shoot a scene, Raymond, scene it and be able to fly one way, have your tamer pointing the other way.

29:49     There’s a lot that goes almost cinematography and between you and me and everybody on the podcast, I think some photography is Yulia and my hat is off all those, I mean other skill set, you know me. Yeah. For me just holding a camera stand on the ground and picking this thought with my DSLR, that’s hard. I can’t even imagine trying to promote myself as hard as hogger for being able to say, does it say what’s hard on it? You look good. I mean you can hit the record button, but you’re just going to get a bunch of crap. Well, well, well yeah, that’s, that’s the whole point. Making it look good and everything else. Yeah. Well I can also understand how they might look at me and say, how are you going to fly 42 acres and two days deliver three d BIM model to an architect? Because I don’t even understand half the words you just said. Yeah. You know, it’s Kinda like that, you know? And I said, okay, well you know what to do with an f stop and I know how to push the auto button. So I was like, there’s that.

30:58     But, but, but, but with that said, even though you’re flying a drone, you’ve got to realize it’s a flying camera. You got to study up about that camera. Go, um, go study that camera so that you know how to do it. There’s wine just for construction like I do. I still need to know camera settings. I need to know optimal times to flight because shadows for one thing, shadows can be shadows can kill my whole flight. I can spend half an afternoon and flying a couple acres of a site yet back, throw it into the cloud processes and it just, because I got really sharp hard shadows that can ruin my whole point cloud. You’ve got to know the right time of day or the right time of year. Even the fly. It’s easy, but it’s not easy. I mean there’s a lot you got to know. Right, right. It’s more of the news work that goes into the job. It’s not the, it’s not putting the drone in the air. That’s hard parts. The knowledge of how to make it actually make it. Exactly. Yeah. As it turns out, flying the drone, well, well let me say this, if I was a drone racer, that would be hard. Sure.

32:08     Yeah. I fly drones on a very, very conservative flight path. It’s very slow. It’s very strict. Everything is thought out days before the flight even happens. Looked at two or three times to make sure everything’s going to go the way it goes. So that when I arrive at a site, um, when I arrive at the site, it’s basically set up check and when the flight comes it’s literally that one button [inaudible] because all of that background has gone in prior to the flight.

32:44     That’s great. Now, um, now, I don’t know, I don’t know how much you mind sharing, but I would love to get an idea of kind of how much a typical project for you, how much you charge for a typical project. I mean range wise and then even range wise if you’re willing just kind of a business how your business has grown and you know, be as specific or as vague as you’d like. But I just know people always are kind of love hearing numbers and what’s possible in the, in the space.

33:16     Well, since I’ve gone full time and the investment I made since June, my company started to make money positively in December and it passed my investment level actually in January. So basically it took two months for my investment to be recouped. And now here we are almost at the end of March and everything is in the green. So I can, I can say that to people. I wouldn’t want to put out numbers simply because different areas in different regions are going to be vastly different. I mean, here in southern California, it’s expensive. Yeah. It’s really expensive to live here and work here. And I would tell people erase right here and they try to use them some place else. Like, I don’t know, Tennessee, they’d never get a job. Yeah. And I would always say when you’re starting out, you know, um, actually I should say this to the first bit of work I did for the first two months, I did everything pro Bono, but I did it pro bono with organizations that mattered.

34:39     Like locally here we have the Fallbrook [inaudible], which is a, uh, which is a, uh, uh, an organization that preserves portions of lamp. And I went, I approached them, and this is way back in a couple of months ago. I basically approached them and said, hey, you know, um, I know you have about 30 plots of land here in the, uh, northern San Diego County. What is the quality of the, uh, imagery and the maps that you have on them? And they looked at me and shrugged their shoulders and they said, well, we got nothing. And I said, well, maybe I can fly those for you and at least give you imagery on them and maps on them. And they said, how much? And I said, well, you know, when we do them pro bono, you know, be cause you’re basically a volunteer organization that depends on donations from the community, which is exactly what they are.

35:46     So I went out there and I did a whole bunch of flights with them, delivered some good content and they got real happy real fast. And by now, you know, I’m not the youngest guy on the planet and I decided, hey, if I’m going to start a company, I’m going to start backwards. I’m going to start by giving back first and then let my kids company rebid. So I spent two, two or three months just basically doing, giving back things for, I really focused on, on, on developing clients, on developing my own business. And that’s sort of two purposes. It got me out there, it got my name out there and it got me out there as a guy that’s doing stuff. But it also allowed me to practice in the real world, delivering real stuff to real people. And I think that’s a really, really important thing. And then of course when I gave things to the conservatory, they would say, hey, you know, David delivered stuff to us. It’s really nice. And I would just basically say, hey, if you know anybody, please, you know, just stand comes to me and let me talk to him. No, I’m not proud of it. And I think I just want to talk and start a conversation. And that’s the, the, what’s the real key for me, just using that one little phrase,

37:05     I really like to start a conversation with you. Yeah. And I don’t want your business. I want your money. Can we just start a conversation with you and show you what I can do, show you what the drones can do and all those kinds of things. Yeah. Well, and the other thing by doing that work, it gives you a portfolio. It gives you something to talk about with people you do want to do business with. You can say, Oh, I’ve done work. I’ve done this for the conservatory for x, for Y, for Z. Instead of just saying, Oh hey, I kind of know what I’m doing. Can I come and you know, fly your site too.

37:36     Yeah, exactly. There was a little bit of yeah, I know what I’m doing involved here, but you know, the gift, the gift back to the community was there, but it was also getting out there. It’s your first step to getting out there. Yeah, and I would say to anybody, it’s the easiest way to get out. Find every, every community has a local conservatory. And no matter what you, if you just want to do cinematography, if you want to do construction and mapping like I’m doing or, or anything else with drones, it’s a great place to start because you go to a conservatory, all they’re doing is looking for volunteers and you walk up and are doing say, hey, okay, well I think the graphs of your, of your land over there and you know, shoot it from four or five corners and if you do a video, they’re not going to say no. There’s no way they’re going to say no. They’re going to say, oh thank you. Go Talk to those people. Yeah, that’s the one. That’s an easy one. It gets harder accident unfortunately. But don’t do that. It’ll get your hopes up. You’ll be doing stuff. You’ll be cause you to start. Um, all right, I got two more questions before we’re done. So, um, one is, and we may have touched on this a little bit already, but what is your favorite part about, uh, having your own business and, uh, flying drones?

39:01     Well, the favorite part about how in your own business is being your own boss. There is nothing better than being your own boss and running your own company at the same time. That’s the work about it because it’s your own company and you’re responsible for yourself. Yeah. So it does take self accountability. I mean, for me to go to the office means I just wake up, walk down the steps, go into the room, that’s my office and there I am. Now I’m completely, I’m completely liable to myself. I have to make my own rules. I have to, I have to book things, I have to do everything right now, you know, you know, the industry is young, so everybody’s doing that right now. There’s not a lot. The whole good. Oh, okay. But eventually we’ll get there. I don’t happen and I understand that. But yeah, right now it’s the greatest thing is to be completely independent, but at the same time, you’re going to have to be in the position where I am right now.

40:08     I’m between two things, doing this thing, getting ready to do that thing. And you know, you’re, you’re your own pilot. You’re, you’re on program, um, Brash. You’re your own repair person. Ready for that hint, hint. Um, learn how to use Ebay by the way. And then, you know, you’ve gotta be Your Own Business Development, your own marketing, but at one point that’s really fun. It’s really exciting. And there’s a lot that’s really great about that. Yeah. Yeah. You’re in control. You’re in complete control of your destiny. You don’t have a boss that’s looking over you saying, Oh, do this, do that, do that. The other thing, you’re the one that has to do everything. So I agree. I would say, I would say it’s absolutely great, but at the same time it can, it can be, it can be really terrifying. There’s a lot of people that aren’t just, just aren’t cut out for it. You know? You’ve got to have that discipline. Yeah. It’s, it’s a different kind of character. You’ve got to have that character. You can build into it. I mean, there’s a lot. Well, but want to be like that. Go motivate yourself. Go do it highly. I would suggest Yak. Go do it. Awesome. All right. And then last question. Well, last main question.

41:34     Uh, if you were going to start your business over time, though, you haven’t been in it a super long full time, but if you were gonna start it over today, is there anything that you would do differently or would you keep it all the same? I guess knowing what you know now, w what would you change if anything?

41:50     Not really much. Not really much. Um, I think I might be a little bit too, too soon in it to say that I’d like to change much, but I don’t think there’s much I changed because I don’t think there’s many variables that would be different. I don’t think, I mean, a lot of people might think, hey, you know, you’re starting this company, why don’t you go out and seek venture capital? Well that’s a possibility, but then you’re focusing on that and then not working. And if you’re going to do that, then you almost need a partner who’s a business person to be able to do that side of the business. And that’s Kinda, I mean there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s totally cool. But then your

42:35     not beholden to yourself. I mean residency kind of lose that your stroller and autonomy that you had.

42:41     You’re starting a big corporation. It’s going to be that kind of thing. And I hope you have a really great niche because that’s the only way that that’s going to be pulled off is a great niche for, hey, we are this startup because we do this thing that’s just so awesome. Everybody wants in on it. Right? Yeah. Well I never really looked at what I did or what I’m doing as really like that because I look at it more like I’m just another subcontractor jumping on to everything else that happens on a construction site with all the other subcontractors. Never thought, you know, I don’t think I need to go out and seek venture capital. I don’t think I need to go out and get business partners. I think I can just go out and talk to people and I think that’ll be good enough.

43:30     And if you need it at some point, you know, let’s do it. But it’s easy if you can just do it by yourself right now and bootstrap it, you know, go for it.

43:37     Right. It does make it less complicated. Now, if I was going to get into something like a delivery, now that’s a whole different ball of wax because the FAA really isn’t a louring bbls s yet. So to do delivery, you have to get a whole company, you’re going to have to have a liaison to the FAA and the federal government,

44:02     and that’s a whole different thing. And you can’t even really roll that out yet to make money with it anyways. It would just be a bunch of testing and stuff. The only people that are

44:09     doing that or the IPP guys. Yeah. Uh, uh, I forget what they are in North Carolina. Somebody’s gonna roll out here in San Diego in about a year or so. Those guys. Yeah. And that’s a completely different world with completely different guys and

44:26     I don’t necessarily know that I have giant creams of [inaudible] like that. So, you know, I just wanted to start a company. Yeah. Get it going, launch it. If it grows, fantastic. They’ll hope it fails, but you know, you keep it going as good as you can. Yeah,

44:43     no, well, Kudos to you for taking the risk and doing it and, um, I’m glad it’s working out for you and that you’re having success with it. Um, but before we go, is there any for if people want to get hold of you, like where’s the best place to find you? You have a website or social media, anything like that.

44:59     Oh, absolutely. Thank you. Oh, the best place to go is www, robotic air services.com. That’s my website. It’s not super fancy because I don’t have a website per se. I actually do the website myself and more. I don’t pend on the website. I just go out, network with people, mingle with the community and get right up and talk with people. But yeah, I do have a website. Please go there. Www, robotic air services that com. That’s my website. Nice and simple. It just shows what I do in the world with construction. Yeah. And you know, it shows what happened.

45:42     Awesome. Well, David, thank you so, so much for talking to us. Um, I know everybody learned a lot, especially with your deep dive in your experience in that kind of construction architecture. That’s a really interesting, and I think that’s a big place where drones are going to be heading. I don’t know if you saw there’s a, a, I think it was

46:02     um, uh, one of these big consulting firms.

46:07     Um, and it was one of those reports that one of them put out that said the biggest use case for Jones is going to be in a construction industry by far. So,

46:15     um, so anyways, but I think, yeah, I think you’re on the right, the right track here. Yeah. And that was part of my long research term that I did that I discovered that, you know, I think cinematography is going to be great. It’s going to add a lot. Oh, I really don’t think that’s where the money is. If we have to boil this down to anything, I don’t think that’s where the real money is. I think the real money is going to be in construction more than anything else. Yeah. Perhaps secondly, inspections, and I would say inspections just because as they have federal regulations that require, uh, inspections at certain time limits on certain things, so they have to do it through construction will simply do it because it saves them money in the long run. And saving money makes everybody happy. So that’s why I went that way and I completely agree with you. That’s the biggest market by far of all. Nice. Awesome. Well, thanks David. I appreciate it.


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