Tell us a little bit about Skycat and your role there.
Skycat was born from a simple problem – Henri my long time colleague and friend had just crashed his copter and he realized that he could have killed someone. He was shocked and started looking for solutions on the net but couldn’t find something really designed for drones. All parachutes systems were merely adaptations of RC or rocket models. We talked about it and started designing the perfect parachute recovery system for drones. No explosives, quick deployment, light and simple. After many months of struggling, we ended up building it! To be honest I shouldn’t say we, as Henri is the one who spent all his free time building prototypes and testing them, but I believe it was good to have cold-minded outsiders to brainstorm and make the right decisions. That’s how he built the team, and I was more than happy to take over the marketing and sales, as that’s what I was doing before.
…selling safety equipment to allow drones to fly without hurting anyone really feels like I’m making the world a little better!
Where did you get your formal education, and what did you study? Do you feel your formal education helped you in starting this business?
That’s a funny question because when it comes to matching education and career, I’m a UFO. I studied industrial measurements in France, moved to Finland, ended up as a mechanic in a packing machine manufacturer before speaking a word of Finnish. I learnt the language the hard way – I knew how to say “incremental encoder” before I could say “left” or “right”. As a social guy with language skills and technology knowledge I ended up in sales, and finally management. I probably wouldn’t have started a business myself, but Henri’s project was so cool and looked so promising there was no way I could say no. After selling packing machines whose only goal is to make workers redundant, selling safety equipment to allow drones to fly without hurting anyone really feels like I’m making the world a little better!
What advice would you give to others who want to get started flying drones?
Go ahead! It’s never been so affordable to start flying, and it seems like it gets cheaper every year. But if you want to start a business, be creative, do something nobody did before. I met people using drones to inject poison into wasp nests. People are ready to pay for solutions, not for seeing you flying a cool machine. If you kill the wasps that eat their yields, they’ll pay. But whatever you do remember to fly safe, with a parachute!
People are ready to pay for solutions, not for seeing you flying a cool machine.
How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
Success is when you meet your expectations. There are small successes, such as when I get my 2 year old son to take even one of his toys back to his room, and bigger ones like getting a 1 Million automation project running well, but the best successes are when you are thanked by your customers or colleagues for what you’ve done.
What would you consider to be the greatest failure in your career to date?
I decided a long time ago to split my life failures into plenty of small ones instead of a few massive mistakes, and it proved to work out, as it’s hard to name the biggest… no really, I think one of the worst mistakes was not to start this company earlier.
Where do you see drones and drone technology in the future?
I tend to compare the drones now to the airplanes in 1900 – plenty of small brands, fast evolving technology, emerging safety standards, etc. It’s pretty clear to me how this will end up. Drones are here to stay – they’re not going to replace airplanes, but definitely fill the gap wherever helicopters just can’t do the job, for economical or technological reasons. Robots are coming up big time. Electrical vehicles are spreading down the mass market and drones are just both of those, but with no competitor from the old world!
To what extent do you think drones can impact this world?
They already did on the military side, and will definitely continue, with tricky problems to solve for automated decision making processes, but I think the most spectacular impact is going to be the everyday life applications. We’ll have to invent all the new sorts of things we could do if flocks of tamed birds were working for us with all the technologies available today on their back. The sky is the limit!
Drones are here to stay…
Is there an aspect of drones at the moment that you’re particularly interested in?
Whether this revolution happens now or in 10 years depends on legislation, and legislation depends on how the industry will address safety issues. This is where we can a play a big role. By providing parachute recovery systems we not only make your drone safer, but we help the all industry to develop by proving to legislators that we’ve worked proactively to solve problems and limit risks. Parachutes are no boring, useless payloads on your drone, they’re the cheapest insurance you can find, and the key to convince people that drones can be safe.
What was the best piece of advice ever given to you?
Be curious, ask questions, try to understand in depth how machines, people and nature work. I believe that is the root of everything. If you understand things around you, you’re much more likely to take the right decisions.