At Future of Everything, there are few industries we find as exciting as the drone industry. We recently published an article where we chatted with 12 drone industry experts to get a better idea of where the industry will go in 2017 and ended up getting connected with Up Sonder, a hot new drone startup out of Los Angles, California.
Today, Up Sonder announced the beta launch of their peer-to-peer drone marketplace that sets out to solve many of the problems preventing the industry from entering the mainstream. From the difficulty users face traveling with their drones to the insurance complications for businesses, Up Sonder aims to bridge the gap from where the industry stands today to where many believe the industry is headed by offering a simple, fast, and most importantly safe way for users to access drones on demand.
Through a partnership with UberRUSH, Up Sonder promises to deliver your drone directly in 30 minutes and currently serves San Francisco, New York, and Chicago with plans to aggressively expand across the country and internationally throughout 2017.
I caught up with CEO and co-founder Derek Waleko to learn more about their upcoming plans and where the industry as a whole is headed.
Here is what I learned…
1.) Where did the idea for Up Sonder come from? What is your background?
I’ve worked for the South Korean government for the past 8 years handling investments and headed up M&A activities. I helped my Korean clients enter the US through acquisition. The idea for Up Sonder came about after I learned in 2015 that all across the US people were listing and renting drones and drone services through Craigslist. I was shocked that people were willing to go through a platform without verifications, without insurance, and without thought to have access to drones. I’ve always had a fascination with the sky and been a big fan of drones, so it very much surprised me no company in the industry was taking the lead on this from a safety standpoint. I knew there had to be a better way so I started building what is now today Up Sonder. The commercial sectors and the general public now have a trusted marketplace where they can have access to drones, with the comfort of knowing that every pilot is FAA certified and every drone is registered with the FAA.
2.) Comparing B2B and B2B, which will make up the majority of your users?
Up Sonder was built to bring drones to the masses. We are a young company and believe our initial growth will be B2B because the commercial industry gets it. They fully understand the benefits of drones. Across the board in every sector, whether it’s construction, agriculture, insurance, oil & gas, real estate or others, drones can be leveraged in every industry to cut cost and save time all while preserving quality. Many companies needs for a drone is locationally spread out and having a drone pilot on the payroll is not ideal. So Up Sonder believes early on B2B will account for the majority of our traffic. However, we do see the general public, B2C, overtaking this portion of our business by the end of 2017. The challenge we as a company face on the consumer side is the question, “Why as a consumer would “I” rent a drone?” It’s a fair question and Up Sonder believes people will rent a drone if they already owned one because traveling with a drone is an uncomfortable experience – much easier to travel light and rent when they land. Or if they are interested in buying a drone, a low-cost try before you buy hands-on approach to finding the right drone is valuable and eliminates buyers remorse. Other reasons are not everyone can afford to pay $1000+ dollars for a quality drone, but would still like access to this amazing technology. And with over 600+ drone models on the market, with new models and upgrades coming out every year, the public now has access to the most current/advanced models on the market. Having the very latest and greats at your fingertips we believe will resonate with the public. We believe this narrative will play out over 2017 and by years end will account for the majority of our drone rentals.
3.) What are some examples of B2B users that would benefit from your service?
Up Sonder’s nationwide FAA certified drone pilots are able and ready to help companies like AT&T have more options when inspecting their cell towers, or construction companies like Bechtel have more access and cost-effect solutions no matter where they build. Up Sonder will even help insurance companies like, GEICO handle claims when disaster strikes. Maintaining a fleet of drones and having a pilot on the payroll, plus travel expenses, won’t always make sense, but when only a drone will do, Up Sonder will be there to fill in the gaps.
5.) What are the top three trends the drone industry will see in the next 20 years?
1) Software upgrades to process drone data quicker, smarter, and in new ways – chemical analysis in real time and AI are going to be a big part of drone integration over the next 20 years. It’s will be as if Google Search came to life in a Drones to give users real-time instant data. 2) Drone Deliveries – Same day shipping is cool, but 10-minute shipping is cooler. This is where we are heading. 3) Drone infrastructure as it relates to energy – Moore’s law does not apply to battery technology so keep drone powered 24 hours a day will be a challenge for the next 20 years and beyond. Drone “gas stations” will need to make sure the drone super highway stays super. 4) 3D printing with microdrones – Microdrones that quickly self-assemble and disassemble to form 3D objects will become a useful tool for design and troubleshooting complex engineering quandaries. 5) Drone For Good – There will be many more use cases where drones benefit society from a humanitarian standpoint and while there are many even today that can be referenced, Up Sonder is most excited about its own efforts to use drones to deliver access to clean drinking water. Up Sonder is committed to donating a portion of its profits off every transaction to its non-profit Up Sonder (US) Life to help the billions around the world have access to this life-saving limited resource. Over the next 20 years, Up Sonder can see a future where drones are making regular water deliveries that will benefit those who need it most around the globe. Up Sonder applauds companies who choose to use drones for good and only sees this trend increasing in the future.
6.) How do you see Up Sonder playing into that future?
Up Sonder is really an energy/drone delivery company disguised as a marketplace. Up Sonder is shaping the drone industry and leading the way. Right now as a drone rental marketplace, but also focused on the future to lead the way in drone energy solutions and deliveries. Drones are a real benefit to society and their usefulness is becoming more and more apparent every day. The drone superhighway is coming and Up Sonder is positioning itself to build the necessary infrastructure that will help power the drones of the future. Rapid charging docks will be needed to act as small drone gas stations and Up Sonder’s has the rooftop real estate in over 200 cities across the US from its members. In addition, to being a critical aspect of future drone infrastructure Up Sonder will continue adding value to Up Sonder members by giving them more ways to earn more income, by being able to take part in drone deliveries within their direct area. Up Sonder sees a future where our network of members transition into local delivery vessels catering to H2H (home-to-home, C2C) deliveries. Up Sonder is long on the drone industry and is proud to have its start in the sharing economy.