Drone to 1K Season 1 / Episode 7: Tom Ihrke from Swampfox Aerial


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Tom is President of Swampfox Aerial, which provides professional aerial imaging & mapping for construction and real estate development companies.

Tom got into the business almost by accident. He’d run an investment fund and did some investment banking. During that time, he represented a drone company that was being bought by an engineering company and he fell in love with drones. He propositioned becoming part of the company but they didn’t want the infrastructure, so Tom told them he might become a competitor. He’d found out what drones could do—how they are changing how things are done in so many businesses. He also figured the drone industry was a good idea because it was changing rapidly so he got a couple of partners, founded a company and started a business. He says they jumped into survey grade lidar (certified surveys) which made it like graduating from college and jumping into brain surgery.

Tom went straight to mapping with lidar as a niche. They had to raise capital to buy a Riegl miniVux, which goes for over $260K. Tom finds this drone fascinating—it shoots thousands of laser beams per second and registers and returns at the speed of light. You can capture returns right to the ground through the trees, making surveying in an afternoon with data back within a week. The business itself has grown, he now has a partner processor, a head of business development, a head of operations and two pilots. They also have a network of pilots for outsourcing.

How does Tom use Lidar or why do people hire him to do Lidar? Surveyors may feel Tom is doing his/her work, but Tom says he actually cuts that surveyor’s costs. For example, with a difficult job, he can use Lidar to get topographical data much more quickly. It’s really rich data, carpeting the ground. Surveyors can use it to create 3D point data in a survey program and then do topographical maps. They can also screen through the trees. So they do the work for the surveyor’s programs and save them time. For landowners, for example, their drone can get 4-6 points of accuracy for a prospective buyer. This information can be gotten fairly quickly without paying for a survey. Developers and builders can find something later that makes their project more difficult, so Tom helps them avoid problems.  Tom works with surveyors and builders alike—builders see the immediate economic benefit, surveyors may be not as receptive as quickly. Tom’s partner also has a lot of ties into the real estate industry, which gives them easier entry into that business.

So Tom’s advice is to have ties but also, to get business, since drones are really just a way of getting a camera or sensor into a way that it hadn’t before, he says that business owners need to focus on what they will provide. Through experience, he says SwampFox has defined the best business model for them. They are also trying to get themselves into easier and regular jobs to offset the Lidar jobs.

“Make sure you keep your drones in the air; the lower-end applications are a more predictable revenue stream. Focus on the product.”

How Lidar jobs are typically priced depends on the accuracy and the processing. For example, flat land is less complex and less costly. If they have to do a tree survey, they price it by the day, as well as how much processing they’ll put into it. They’ve had jobs for $20,000/day or less than $10,000/day and the much of that goes to the processor. Questions to consider for pricing are: Who puts out boundaries? Who does process control? Are diagrams necessary? Tom says the irony is that the jobs they’ve charged the most, they’ve made the least amount of money. David says it’s good for people to understand what the investment Tom made nets him in general; for Tom, this is still part of his learning curve.

The biggest or least expected challenge for Tom was finding the right partners. Because the industry is new and fragmented, there’s no one out there with brand recognition. Tom says he works a lot with competitors. It makes things fun but if you have a bad partner, there is a lot of strife and loss of money. Tom says anyone you partner with should be vetted and will do what they say they will do.

Tom does not fly drones—they scare him. But he does go out on site to make sure he can see what’s happening. He wants to be able to explain things to customers. He’s been trained how to fly but he is not overly comfortable doing it. As President, he feels lucky that he has a great CEO because everything he’s doing is being done for the first time—insurance, taxes, agreements, etc. Tom says he has some big contracts they are competing for and may need subcontractors with specific experience. When they do big jobs, they have to recruits pilots from networks (see their Instagram page below for an application).

Tom’s advice:

“Find your niche and where you want to be and figure out your business around that. It’s easy to get caught up chasing different ideas and to lose focus. Balance interplay between ALL business opportunities and YOUR business opportunity.”

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Episode Transcript

00:01    All right. I think we should be good. All right. Uh, well thanks for tuning in everybody today. I have Tom Ihrke on the podcast with us. Thank you so much for coming on, Tom. Thanks for having me. Yeah, so why don’t we get started, um, like the other podcast we’ve done. Uh, typically this will go, you know, we’ll get some background about your story, how you got into drones, um, how you’ve built, uh, your current business, and then we’ll get into talking a little bit about advice and tips that you might have for future drone pilots or people who might be looking to get into this space as well. So why don’t we start from the beginning and have you tell us about how you originally got into drones and kind of your story there.

00:48     Okay, sure. Yeah, I’m my, uh, background I used to Ilona investments on, um, when that for 10 years and sold it. And, uh, as part of that, I was also doing a little investment banking work and I ended up representing a company that was involved in drones and I represented them, the sale to an engineering company. And really fell in love with the business model, uh, of what, what they were doing, particularly as it relates to topographical mapping and surveying. Um, and so I ended up representing them when the sale was, uh, hoping that they were going to bring me on as part of the, uh, as part of the deal. But I, they didn’t want the infrastructure. And so I sort of let them know that, hey, you guys are probably going to have a competitor because I really liked what they were up to. So it was a really

01:35     eyeopening thing about what drones could do that capabilities, how they’re changing the way things are done in all sorts of businesses. And, uh, is it, is it sort of goes if you’re, if you’re looking to really sink your teeth into something, you need a broken industry that is changing rapidly. And so this kind of had it all. And that’s how, uh, we did it. I partnered up with a guy that I used to work with. Uh, he has a big real estate, uh, background. Uh, he’s, he’s in touch with a lot of builders and developers, engineers and surveyors, and we put our heads together. Um, we brought in, uh, I’m Jamie, MJ McGoldrick who is our, um, chief of operations and we hired a couple of pilots and suddenly found ourselves with a company. That’s pretty much how it started.

02:22     Wow. Awesome. So you just, you just jumped straight into it, huh? Just kind of went, went full speed. You know what you’re yourself kind of trickle in, but you’re just, you know, you got going right away.

02:33     It was a, yeah, we jumped in the cold feet and, and, and some, sometimes we wish we’d taken a little slower, but yeah, we fell down the learning curve head over heels. So it’s been quite a ride for the last nine months.

02:46     Okay. Yeah. I was gonna ask how long you been doing it? So nine months. I was going to say, at least you a, at least doing it this way, one of the benefits is you’re kind of forced to, forced to make sure you’re getting up to speed as quickly as possible. Um,

02:57     yeah, no and it was thrust, it was thrust upon us. We also jumped in there probably one of the more complicated areas doing lidar survey grade lidar or I’ll use some sort of certified surveys. And that is a whole other world in terms of complexity. I think it was probably like graduated in chrome college and jumping right into brain surgery. You know, again, we’ve, we’ve learned, we’ve learned how we learned a lot of lessons along the way and you know, seem to have it. I’ve got our team down and our knowledge base is pretty strong and we’re, we’re, our last few dimes are really drawn seamlessly. Okay.

03:39     That’s awesome. So with, uh, so with this company, it sounds like, you know, you had some exposure to someone else who is doing something similar and saw the opportunity and, and kind of followed suit. So did you guys go straight to mapping and lidar or were there some intermediate steps in between?

03:58     No, we went straight to mapping lidar. We raised a little bit of capital when we purchased the, uh, Regal mini voc sensor. So it’s on the higher end of the spectrum. And the reason we did, I think when it’s all said and done, it was probably $260,000. And, and, and the reason is it’s, it’s a fascinating piece of equipment. You, you, it shoots hundreds of thousand year, thousands of laser beams a second out of the bottom of it and it catches them, you know, it’s sort of registers and returns at the speed of light and can provide really accurate mapping data. So for instance, you can fly over a, in some cases of forced and piece of property and capture, uh, just, you know, returns right to the ground, right through the trees. And so whereas it may take a survey or [inaudible] a surveyor, you know, eight or 10 weeks too, to really go out and capture a survey. We can try it and then afternoon and then, you know, some cases have the data back within a week or two weeks. And sometimes it will take a little longer in terms of the processing at the end of the day, for the most part, we strive to get it back to the customers and 10 days until builder. And to an engineer, that’s really a lot of value because they have so much money tied up in the property so they can cut six or eight or 10 weeks off of their project. It saves them a lot of money.

05:22     Yeah, no, that’s awesome. Um, so with this, are you, so how many team members do you have on your, in your company right now?

05:31     Well, we have a partner processor. We’ve got our head of business development. I am Jamie McGoldrick is the head of operations. I am president and we have two pilots. So that’s, that’s the, uh, the extent of our direct operations. And in the meantime we’ve developed a network of pilots that we can use doubts or, uh, for other, other jobs, cell towers. Yeah. Just other types of work then we can find. Yep. Cool. Our team, it’s our team that works on the, you know, light are mostly, um, we also do some, some work with thermal and monthly spectral cameras, which can, you know, we can help in some environmental. That seems to be where we found some traction in the environmental. Okay. Uh, remediation work, um, with a mobile spectral camera. And, uh, we’ve also found some, some decent work with Ah, um, landfills.

06:30     Okay. Now with landfills, are you doing just like volumetric type stuff with that or other types of [inaudible]

06:35     yeah. Mountain value metric type stuff. Yes.

06:37     Cool. Cool. Um, now walk us through a little bit, you know, so there will probably be people on here that are listening that aren’t as familiar with, um, well you’ve already described what lidar is essentially in the Nice snippet, which I thought was a good description, but they might not be familiar with how lidar is used, uh, to kind of help, um, engineers or why engineers or we might might even need this period. So do you want to walk through a quick use case for people to say, Hey, here’s why people hire us and here’s kind of the value we provide.

07:10     Sure. So when I’m, when our surveyor does a typical survey or, so surveyors are an interesting case because, and in some cases they are not a fan of ours. Um, when, when we first started talking to him, because it appears that we may be, you know, taking the jobs of surveyors, which is absolutely wrong and not accurate. What we’re able to do is we’re able to provide the surveyor a value as a service provider. We can go out and basically cut their biggest costs, which was having boots on the ground for a lot of times. So for instance, we flew a job just recently. Uh, it was a 450 acre piece of property. It was fully wooded throughout and the, uh, it had a, it had a fall of 300 feet or so from one end of the property or the other. So it was, it would have been a really difficult job to survey that they would have had to go out and to cut lines for the trees.

08:10     And even then you’d have, you know, survey points every 25 meters or so, 50 meters. And so you would, you would have, you know, however many accurate data points I would give you over the portion of it, of course, the property. But there was so much biography and someone’s changed in this property that when, when, when we fly it rather than mostly now in sort of a grid pattern across, we get a ladder point, wherever the ladder points hit the ground to wherever the laser hits her down and we can, we can strip that out. So we’re able to provide, so the reason why lidars is valuable is, I mean there’s the use cases best we can do. It’s, it gathers data and the topographical data much faster than a traditional surveyor can because we can do it in one day. We typically see what, uh, you know, in a, in an overall project case a lot less expensively.

09:01     And then the data that we get is really rich data. Instead of just getting a grid of data points, we actually provide sort of a carpet of data. Oh, the entire ground and what surveyors, uh, as well as other, as well as other industries use that for as they can build a three d point cloud on it. And we’ll, we can do from there has given them that data. They can put it in the civil three D or, or any, I mean number of them, ah, surveying programs and then they can put contours and, and do all the elevation and topographical maps and, you know, and in the meantime, visually what we can do is we can strip off, uh, we can strip the trees and shrubs off the property so we can see what the ground looks like is, you know, we’ll call him back dog completely, you know, accurate picture of, of the, uh, the ground without having to guess what’s underneath the trees.

09:54     Right, right. No, that’s awesome. And so who are your tip? Okay,

09:59     well that, so I was going to say, and I think this dovetails in your next question. What, um, well, we’ll, we’ll go, we’ll, we’ll do that for surveyors. And what will happen is whereas they used to send their guys out in the field, when we do this work, we can now fly it. We give them the data and then they put that data into there, a software program and they use that to certify the topographical survey. We don’t do boundaries. Ah, you don’t largely illegal in most states I think for to do aerial boundary surveys. But you know, the topographical stuff still has to be certified. So we’ll do that where you’re finding a use case, if you’re looking, if you’re a landowner for instance, and you have a piece of property, we uh, you can quiet and we don’t have to get the survey, great accuracy.

10:45     So we can do that fairly quickly. We don’t have to put down round control and all that. But with our, with our drone, we can probably get to four or five to six inch accuracy without that and provide them a good look. So if there’s a perspective buyer, they’ll don’t know exactly what they’re getting without having to pay for a survey. Wow. In a lot of cases and a lot of cases, well we’ll find developers or builders and they’ll go out and they’ll, they’ll buy a piece of land and then halfway through they’ll, nope discover there’s something in the middle of the property that yeah, no, that makes their projects, that changes up the economics of the project. Either they can’t build in a certain area or some costs a lot more than a blast out the rock or do something. So if we can, well we can mitigate some of that risk up front by giving them a good picture of the fairly inexpensive, we had some other [inaudible] usage for it.

11:33     Yeah, no, that’s great. I feel like it’s, it’s, you can hear about the technology thing. Oh that’s cool. But then, you know, once you really start drilling in and there’s so many different ways it can be used in ways people can benefit from that same kind of information, but so much faster. So, um, that’s really cool. I was going to ask or follow up with, you know, are, so your typical clients, are they, are you working directly with surveyors or do you, or do you work mostly with like directly with builders and end developers? I’m just kind of curious where you guys plug in to some of these larger jobs.

12:07     It’s, it’s both. Um, the, some of the surveyors, we work with them, the builders for all of our initial sales, and then some of the surveyors, we work with them, come back us afterwards, one once they’ve gotten another job. Um, but for the most part, uh, you know, the builders are the one that where they, they really see the immediate economic benefit and the surveyors, uh, sort of understand that economic benefit as is, as it goes along. So, so to that end, we’re, where I, and an and r may be simply because my, my partners background is very much in real estate development. And so that’s where his contacts lie. Um, and, and we, we also have a financial partner, uh, in the firm. Um, and there are big land acquisition group. So we have a lot of ties yes. Into that world. I just natural ties into that world. Yeah. And that’s, that’s one thing that I would suggest anyone getting into this is to make sure that you have natural customer base because, yeah. Because I’ll understand their business. So in order to can give them the product that they want. Right, right. That was the lesson that we learned along the way.

13:15     Yeah. I was going to ask, you know, one, one problem where I’ve got, you know, several questions thought in my head right now for up, but one of them is, you know, a big problem I hear people say is they’re not, I hear them say they’re not sure how to get clients or they don’t know where to find clients. But I think also wrapped in that is that they’re not confident in what value they’re trying to provide to people and what they’re communicating to, you know, prospective clients. But for those folks, what would you say, or what advice might you have, uh, as far as how to, how to get clients, how to find work? Um, any business developments, um, tips you might have for people that are kind of near the beginning stages of business.

13:55     Sure. And again, we’re not, we’re not far from there, so

13:57     yeah, sure.

14:00     If I was gonna go back and do it, we sort of backed into it to this and I, I think it’s been a,

14:07     this was, this was sort of our takeaway on it, but it w because the, the drones really, I mean everyone calls it the drone industry or know they talked about drones, but at the end of the day, the drones are really just a way of bringing, uh, either a camera or a sensor of some type A and putting it in a position that had formerly couldn’t have been put into. So it’s changing up, obviously the way that that data’s gathered everywhere. And so what, what I would argue is that you need to have your, you need to define your application rather than just go in and think you’re going to get into the drone business. You need to figure out what product two you’re going to provide and then, and then to do that well and again, uh, we, we’ve learned something, some bitter lessons of Lidar and it’s, we’ve learned, we’ve gotten through them and we, we’ve gotten to a point where we understand a very complex thing. There’s a lot less complex ways to go about doing it. Finding things where, for instance, oh, hello? Hello?

15:17     Yeah, sorry, my internet cut out for like two seconds you said? Uh, okay. Last I heard was, um, there are less complex ways of doing it and then it dropped out for just a second.

15:27     Yeah. Okay. So they’re, they’re less, they’re less complex, uh, business models or, or applications that you can do. And for instance, one of them is terminal cameras. You can, you can fly it over and help our homeowners, for instance. You know, how they’re staring. Their crafts are healthy. It doesn’t take a whole lot of processing or backend knowledge. It’s really, that’s just about playing the drone and then the, the higher up the spectrum to go, the more complicated it gets. And so I guess I would say that there’s a lot of, uh, easier work that, that and regular work that we’re trying to also get ourselves into to offset the more complex lidar jobs that we’re working on. And that, that to me, anything from farmers to, uh, realtors to, we, in fact, we just put the a, we just flew a guy’s yet last week. Uh, and they’re putting that than the with the boat manufacturer or the yacht manufacturer calling us and wants to stuff. Yeah. Our footage and our textures that we captured on the website. So once, once you start finding these applications, the hard part is making sure that you keep your, your on drones in the air and so on. But the lower end applications is a much more predictable revenue stream and it’s harder to, you know, mess up I think.

16:45     Sure. Now with the yacht. I’m just curious, did you, you were doing lidar with the yacht, right? You were just, it was it more of just, you know, taking pictures in your free marketing stuff.

16:56     Yeah. This one’s a fandom. Um, it’s actually a friend of mine, we, we, he wanted it trying to sell them. He was trying to sell his boats, so he wanted it for that. And then yeah, he sends the boat manufacturer and so they, they liked what they saw and so it was just photography. But I mean, again, the, the product, getting back to your original question, the product there is the actual footage set to music. No cotton spliced. Yeah. Properly using some kind of movie. Uh, it’s movie making software. I didn’t do it. One of our pilots did, but you know, at the end of the day when you’re doing that, we weren’t thinking about drones. We were thinking about that’s what he wanted was the footage. And so you really have to focus on the end product. Okay. And then figure out how to use it. Drones to get you there.

17:44     Yeah, exactly.

17:45     It’s a reverse that process that becomes harder.

17:48     Yeah. And you know, a lot of times what we tell people is, you know, it’s not that it’s not that hard to go buy a drone and put it in the air. Right. You know, it’s what you can do with the, with the drones given you. So it’s, you know, for your, at least for you actually it is kind of hard to, with the equipment that you have the really expensive equipment, it is hard to go out and buy that. And then, you know, there’s a lot of learning curve on that with the lidar stuff. But with, you know, buying a phantom four, you know, there’s a lot of people that can afford to purchase a phantom four and throw it in the air. But you know, you also, like you said, you need to be focused on the product, on, you know, knowing how to edit the video correctly and all that other stuff that comes with it.

18:22     So, you know, everybody can work with the same ingredients but get different, you know, end results. So I think that’s really good advice. Focusing on the product. Um, so if you don’t mind me asking, I’m just curious with some of these bigger lidar jobs, maybe you can give us a range, like what are typical like size, jobs, dollar amount wise? Cause I mean it sounds like this equipment, it’s expensive, right? You said it was like over $200,000 to get, to get up and running with that, you know, Lidar Sensor on the drone, you know, so what type, I mean, I’m assuming that there are a lot, uh, you know, larger, um, jobs dollar wise, but do you have like a, like a typical range? Um, some of these lidar jobs might go for?

19:05     Okay.

19:06     Well,

19:07     okay. Yeah, there’s not really a typical range because the, a lot of the, so the, the revenue that we charge for the, um, job on a very complex survey type job where we have to get to within, you know, two or three or four centimeters a in order for the surveyor to say, hey, this is accurate enough to put my stamp on it. Uh, there’s a lot of processing that goes into that. So [inaudible] it’s hard to say, you know, if you’re flying something that’s very flat and doesn’t have a lot of uh, you know, free cover, you know, it’ll, it’ll be a lot less than, than, uh, if, if you’re finding something very complicated with a lot of hills and trees and [inaudible] and rock and stuff. So I know that’s a long way in answering it. But at the end of the day, if we have to go out and do,

20:00     you know, full blonde tree survey, we, we price it by the day. And again, I can’t give you the exact parameters we use, um, to price pricing, but it’s because we don’t really, we priced the job as a whole on how much processing we’re going to have to put into it. So, you know, again, I can’t really give you an answer for that except to say that, you know, we’ve, we’ve had jobs where we’ve fallen over, you know, at at greater than $20,000 a day. We’ve had jobs where we phoned it. That’s less than, you know, $10,000 a day. But it’s all based on how difficult the process is processing is going to be. And again, a lot of that money doesn’t go to Austin, goes to the Pete, but our partner who, who processes the jobs themselves.

20:48     Yeah. No, that’s good. I mean and, and that’s all

20:51     it really it does cause cause there’s, there’s all those, when you get into this too, you have to realize sometimes we’re partnering with surveyors, we’re going to have, and we’ll have to, you know, figure out do we put out ground control to someone else, put outgrown control or you know, are the, how clear in the boundaries. One of the overflows. There’s all sorts of things that we, you know, what are they really hoping to capture on the properties that just biography or are they looking for, you know, uh, as-builts or you know, any other things that could be out there. And so there’s, do they need anything diagram? Is there going to be some, um, you know, volumetric work that we can do with it. So again, the, the jobs were just all over the board. And the ones that we charged the most time, we’ve actually made the least we found.

21:36     Is that just cause there’s so many other people in Austin. Yeah.

21:39     Yeah. And so it’s, it’s not a, uh, there’s, I wish I could give you a firm answer, but we can’t.

21:44     No, that’s fine. And that’s really all I was looking for is, you know, cause it was a lot of people out here who might have no idea. They’re like, okay, d do you get paid $500 to do this job or do you get paid, you know, $20,000. You know, so I think it’s just, I was just looking for a range. So you know, like it’s, so it’s in the, it’s in the five figures for, for these jobs because it sounds like there’s a lot of, yeah. So there’s a lot of people involved. Um, there’s a lot of moving parts, so yeah, I understand it. It varies based on complexity and how much time is involved and who’s involved. Um, but I think that’s just good for people to hear. You know, like you made a big investment, but you know, you know, a lot of these jobs are, you know, they, since they are more complex, you can command a lot higher rate than if you were just to go, you know, take some photographs of somebody’s a house that they were selling. You know, this is completely different, completely different, uh, animal. So,

22:30     yeah. Yeah. But no, I’m not, I’m not kidding when I say that. The jobs that we charge the most, well we’ve made the leash on and sort of a crazy universe relationship thus far trying to figure out,

22:42     yeah, sure.

22:44     The learning curve.

22:46     Yeah. No I didn’t, you know, like you said, you don’t meet up for nine months, so it sounds like you guys are, are, uh, you know, you dove in, in or are doing well with it and like anything new, you know, you’re going to have to learn and figure stuff out. So, um, what would you say, I was going to say on that, what would you say as you’ve been, you know, doing in this new venture, what’s been the biggest challenge or the maybe the least expected challenge, something that came up that you weren’t really expecting or that was really challenging that you, you thought you didn’t think was going to be that way?

23:17     Yeah, absolutely. I can tell you that it’s fine finding the right partners

23:23      in because it’s a new industry and because there’s, you know, we always sort of use the, the expression when people ask about the drone industry, we always say name a drone company. And very few people can, they might be able to say DJI, who’s a manufacturer, but the drone services company, there really is no giant player out there right now. And Simon there, there are who people in the industry you might know. But to the general person on the street, it’s not like say it, you know, he’d say, Hey, computer company and people say Apple, they’ll say IBM and no, no, he’ll Packard, no one out there. Um, there’s no one out there that had sort of that, that brand recognition. Yeah. And it’s because it’s fragmented industry and because it’s fragmented industry a you people, I found that this is an industry that know you work with your competitors in a lot of ways. Uh, you know, you’re competing against them for work, but there’s enough work that there’s, there’s a lot of knowledge sharing and uh, there’s, you know, equipment usage and just ways of working together. It was really, it really makes it sort of fun and interesting collegial.

24:30     On the flip side of that isn’t you get a bad partner or you get a partner that that doesn’t deliver what they say they’re going to. It can really cause a lot of strikes. And you know, when that happens, at least in our world with Lidar, there’s a lot of rework and a lot of reef line and there’s a lot of doubling up on costs and, and so it’s very important to anyone you partner with, make sure you, you, you know, we’re, we vet them, make sure they’re, you know, good people and helpful, you know, w you know, do what they say they’re going to do because it’s, that’s where, that’s where we’ve really stumbled on in a couple of cases. Yeah. It wasn’t necessarily, you know, anything that we did or could have done, but it’s, it’s a changing industry and you know, everyone, you can come at that from a different way and you have to make sure you’re just on the same page with your partners. Everyone we’ve met in the industry has been great. It’s just that sometimes our business model, and there’s the mash as much as it did on paper right when we entered in that. But you know, as time goes by you’ll find the people that you work really well with. And so we put together all a really interesting team and a network of partners that we, you know, we’re very confident in now and that we can tell them.

25:39     Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And I think it’s good advice because really no matter what business you go into, even if you’re totally flying solo a, you’re going to end up partnering with people in some, some form or fashion, whether it’s referrals or, uh, we’re actually partners in fulfilling the work product. So I think that’s wise advice for, for anything you’re working on. Um, one thing I was going to ask was, um, oh yeah. Do you, so are you spending, you said you’re the president of the company, do you, so you spend most of your time kind of managing everything, getting the jobs in and getting the pilots to the right places and all the partnerships. Are you actually out there? Uh, do you ever do any of the flying yourself?

26:18     Okay. Um, yeah, I’m 51 years old and never really, I grew up playing video games, flooding those things scares me to death. I am a pilot and I know how to do it. The pilots that we have are, they’re younger and they’re, they’ve got pretty agile foams. It’s fair, fun, better at it. Um, that, that being said, I do go out on site a lot, uh, because I liked, I liked to be out there. I like to make sure that we’re, we’re, you know, again, some lessons learned. Are we on, I like to make sure I see it cause if there’s any issues or if we need to go back to the customer with anything, it’s a lot easier to explain it to them. Yes. You know, if, if, if I’ve laid eyes on it so I can fly drones. I have flown on, like I’ve been trained and how to fly all of those systems that we have

27:01     and, uh, have actually flown it. It’s just, I’m not overly comfortable seeing it. So anyhow, that’s the answer. So I, yeah, I, but my job is president. I spend, you know, in the startup company, the biggest, all right. Hurdle anyone’s gonna face is that everything you do, you’re doing for the first time. Yeah. And that goes new today. I just signed off on our tax returns and got our k ones out the first time that this company has done it. There’s a lot of questions and things that haven’t been done before. So there’s a lot of times, for instance, with that, with the accountant that I won’t have to spend next year. Or conversely I’m working with working with processors or learning this or learning that. Everything we, everything you do, the redistribution agreement, you set up every MBA you have to execute every, everything that you’re doing insurance. So we spend a lot of time and getting all that in place. And again, our CEO’s, yeah. Instrumental if not days and the driving course find that and all. Ah, but I’m, you know, what I’m trying to do is build these new relationships and then make sure in addition to all of the boxes being checked, make sure we have the strategic boxes checked as well.

28:13     Yeah, yeah. No, and that’s what I figured. I was just curious, you know, hear what your thoughts were on that. So, um, no, that’s great. That’s awesome. Um, so that’s, that’s mainly all of the, all the questions I had. And thank you so much for sharing. Uh, I guess before we go, or maybe two things, one thing is, you know, if there’s anybody starting a drone service business or thinking about getting into it, maybe what’s the one piece of parting advice, uh, you would have for them? And then I have one more question after that.

28:41     Okay. Yeah, it’s an interesting thing, but I would, I would definitely, so you’re out your niche and where you want to be and then build your business around that. And there’s all sorts of, there’s all sorts of business opportunities that, that we’re seeing right now that are coming at us. And it’s very easy to get caught up in going this way when you should be going that way or chasing this idea of versus chasing that idea. And then we are aligned, our firm. And that’s really where we’re focusing. Although, you know, we are, we do other work as well because, you know, just from an economic necessity, but that’s what, you know, we’re, where we spend all of our time is on beliefs. Right now I’m a lidar and, but because of our relationships are that we have been able to branch into other opportunities. But every time you do that, it takes your focus away from some of your core business. And so we, we tried to really focus on, you know, key component, which is the regional center, but it would also be foolish not to put the other ones out there. You just have to balance that. No, a interplay between the two or between, you know, all business opportunities in your business opportunity.

29:54     Yeah, no, I think that’s smart. And, and, uh, and you know, like you said, if you are spreading yourself across so many different opportunities, you can never really focus in and become really, really good in the best at the one thing that you’re really kind of specialized in, which for you guys sounds like Lidar. Um, so I think that’s, that’s good advice. Um, so, uh, and then, so the last question would be if someone wanted to find out, I guess more about your company or, um, you know, I don’t know if you guys are on social media, but maybe you know, what’s, what’s your website and I guess where can people find out more about you guys?

30:28     Sure. Our website is www dot swamp fox, aerial.com, and, uh, we are, um, socially do have a social media presence and I believe Facebook, Instagram and linkedin. And we use our linkedin for most of our professional contacts. We use Instagram, uh, in sort of a way to attract people to our pilot network and Facebook. Uh, yeah. And I’m going to make sure what we use it for, but I know we have it out there for sure on that. I’m not on Facebook, so, but I know we do

31:07     haven’t, yeah, real quick on the pilot network. So do you guys, I’m just, I’m thinking people will probably be curious about that. Do you guys recruit pilots from different parts of the country to fly with? I remember you alluded a little bit to that earlier. Do you want me to just give us a quick snippet on, on what you’re doing there? Yeah,

31:25     we’ve, you know, again, as and as we said, you know, it’s very hard to walk the balance between doing what you want to focus on and doing what you sort of have to do too. Or not that I don’t want to put it like that, but there are some bigger contracts that have come across our desk that we’re competing for in which, you know, we would need more than our two pilots. And uh, essentially in that case we’d be the contrast or, and then we looked for subcontractors to help us fulfill the work. And so within that pilot network, we were looking for people who have got know specific experience, be it cell phone, self power experience or you know, agricultural experience or you know, any other, on the number of verticals that we use. Uh, we’ve explored but you know, we’re always, if you get a big job, there’s, you’re going to have to go to a lot of freelance guys or cool. A lot of people who have pilot networks already cobbled together. Just because of the, the w the way that a lot of these things are spread out. And so, um, did geographically spread out. That’s, that’s what we that. So that’s what we have been sort of recruiting for. And, um, and again, we, we’re, we’re hoping please, you know, we’re, we’re hoping we’re gonna need to put these people in to work here pretty quick in our network.

32:41     Awesome.

32:43     Oh, tough core. So

32:45     cool. Now, if people were interested in checking out that pilot network, maybe like, you know, they’re sending their info to you. Do you have a place like a portal where they like apply for that or is it,

32:55     and are on our Instagram page on swap box, Ariel’s Instagram page. We have a application, I believe that anyone can submit. Cool. Uh, their names and, and uh, we asked for some of their experience what kind of equipment they’re used to working with. Um, obviously confirming that they have a one oh seven, as well as maybe providing some deliverables that they have because the deliverables are always the key. Yeah. It give good deliverables. Your clients come back.

33:22     Yeah, yeah, yeah. Awesome. Cool. We’ll, uh, we’ll link all that up to in the, uh, in the notes, uh, to the podcast. So your website and your social media stuff and your pilot network applications. So I think that’s, that’s awesome. And um, you know, I won’t keep you any longer, but I really appreciate you sharing all about your company. What you guys are up to a lot of great info and I think you guys are on an awesome path here.

33:48     Well that’s great. Well thank you very much for including us in this.

33:50     Yeah, thanks Tom. And we’ll, we’ll catch you later. Thanks. Alright. Hey Tom, don’t hang up though. Okay. Yeah, I know, I always get weird stuff. Oh yeah, that was great. It’s perfect. I always, I was kind of like get nervous at the end of the calls. I’m like, oh no, they’re going to just think I’m really hanging up on them. But uh, yeah, no, that was a, yeah, that was awesome. Um, really cool to hear about your company. It’s Kinda nice cause I used to do some of these podcasts where I would have already talked to people and kind of know a lot about them beforehand. And so, uh, you know what we were doing the podcast, it’s like, you know, when you’re in a natural conversation, you don’t want to repeat things that you already know. Um, but, uh, so it’s Kinda nice doing these cause um, you know, I’m just genuinely curious and discovering things for the first time. So it was really cool to hear about your company. Yeah.

34:39     Okay. Well that’s great. Yeah, no, hopefully. Yeah, that was great.

34:42     Yeah, I know. Um, I was going to send you a drone launch academy t-shirt if you’d be interested in one. Um, do you, do you have a good mailing address for me to send it to?

34:53     Yes. And that to a,

34:55     okay.

34:55     Uh, 38 crier lane. K. R. I. E. Arlene. Uh Huh. And that’s in mount pleasant, South Carolina two nine four six four.

35:09    Okay. Tonight is mount pleasant near on here in North Carolina. Yeah. Or I know it is.

35:21     We’re, we’re right outside of Charleston.

35:23     Oh. Oh cool. No,

35:25     it’s on the south, the south side, South Carolina.

35:27     Literally like the furthest away you can get in front of John. Sorry, I do. I went to Charleston for a night, uh, when I got married and wait for one of our honeymoon. We did a little, we just Savannah, Charleston. Just really, really nice out there. Yeah. And then what size shirt do you want? You have a double x. I got a triple x, so we’ll send that out to you. Cool. All right. All right, Tom. Thanks again man. I really tasted it. All right. And then when, when will I, when will you contact me? When the single, or what does that process look like? Uh, so we’re recording all of these at the moment.


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