Dronebase API and Dronebase Pilot

I love it when companies quickly get into a market, start delivering a product or service, and then, over time iterate on their products and services to expand the market and their share of it. Contrast that with a company spending years getting something right before shipping their first product. I much prefer the ship quickly, get customers, and iterate and automate approach.

Our portfolio company Dronebase is very much using the iterate and automate playbook. As I posted about here a few months ago, they offered their first commercial drone flight in January 2015 and two years later they did their 10,000th drone flight. All during that time, they were automating much of the workflow for their customers, their pilots, and inside their operations.

Over the past ten days, they have shipped two things that demonstrate how highly automated the drone flight process has become.

On March 9th, Dronebase launched the “Enterprise API” with this blog post. I tweeted out the news:

And today, Dronebase is launching the Dronebase Pilot iOS app, which looks like this on a DJI drone:

As Dronebase cofounder and CTO Eli Tamanaha explains in this post:

The app can now connect to your drone to help you fly. Similar to how you use the DJI Go app, just dock your iPhone or iPad to your drone’s controller, open the app, and launch the drone. You’ll be able to see the 1st person point-of-view from the drone’s camera, shoot photos and videos, and control settings like camera angle.

Our goal, as an engineering team, is to keep drone pilots doing what they love – flying. The more we can streamline the busy work, the administrative stuff like classifying and uploading imagery, the better.

So with the API and the Pilot app, a mission can move from an enterprise customers’ application (like an insurance company’s adjusting workflow application) to a pilot’s phone without any human being touching that mission. And the imagery can flow back from the pilot’s phone back to the enterprise application in the same way.

That’s how you automate something after you’ve figured out what the market wants and how to deliver it. Instead of building all of this stuff before launching, Dronebase starting doing missions and listening to customers and pilots and then went out and built a crack engineering team under the leadership of Eli and started automating the process in the way the market wanted it.

The result will be a much larger available market for drone imagery, or as Dronebase calls it “Air Support For Every Business”. Because if you are a large enterprise with a need for hundreds or thousands of missions, you can programmatically issue (via the API) those missions from your existing workflow and applications and you can get these missions done for somewhere between $50 and $300 per mission. That’s the power of automation and scale at work.  Which will massively expand the market for what enterprises can use drones for. Which will, in turn, mean orders of magnitude more flights for drone pilots to do. A win/win for everyone.


Comments (Archived):

  1. curtissumpter

    @Fred Do you see this market as huge?What are the potential markets you see here? You had to agree with the thesis of market size or expanding market size before USV invested. I know I’m missing something b/c you’ve posted about DBase many times, but what?

    1. pointsnfigures

      Agriculture. Huge. Or do we say Yuge. Construction. Yuge.

      1. JamesHRH

        Utilities. Yuger.

      2. Matt Kruza

        what’s the big agriculture angle? Do you mean drones that eventually apply fertilizer and other services etc.. or just on the purely visualization size? Curious!

        1. Campbell Macdonald

          All of the above and more. And yes for utilities: inspection, maintenance, etc

    2. kidmercury

      potential is endless….i know there are some hedge funds that have drones assigned to every major retailer to monitor foot traffic, potentially infer socioeconomic class and money spent. the only hindrance is potential privacy/nuisance concerns (how many of us really want these things flying all around……maybe if they can make them small enough people won’t care)

      1. curtissumpter

        That’s prescient.

      2. JoeK

        Isn’t endless a little exaggerated? Many applications can be served perfectly well by a person on the ground, like the retail scenario you just mentioned. Banks showing interest in block chain does not necessarily correlate with blockchains having endless potential.

        1. kidmercury

          sure, endless is an exaggeration. i agree that the potential is not infinite in the literal sense of the term.

        2. kidmercury

          retail store surveillance with ground troops is not practical without drones or some technology. the human on foot approach cannot grab all the potentially relevant information (a human for every store, grabbing every picture — customers entering/exiting, parking lot, vehicles in parking lot, aerial views, etc) that can ultimately be assimilated and fed to a neural network in a cost effective manner.

      3. Richard

        Is this really the place for hype. At least do a back of the envelope calculation

      4. LE

        Hopefully per my other comment ‘get into things’ dronebase has multiple things in development going forward or is planning to. Unfortunately the examples that you are giving don’t show anything close to endless potential they are super niche. Your mom needs uber she won’t ever need a drone.Plus the other threat is that as drones get better and people become more familiar (and are less picky) there is less reason to need a professional operator or any operator. Experienced this myself with desktop publishing in the 80’s. Look at what has happened to photography. Market has gotten bigger but not so much for people trying to earn a living, right?Look at what has happened with web design. People’s a) are willing to accept a lower quality product b) software improves where they can DIY quite easily. c) Availability (really somewhat ‘b’) of products like wordpress, sites like squarespace, wix where you don’t need to pay someone to do things for you. You suffer and do it yourself. This is not uber or airbnb is my point. Plus real estate industry is super cheap with how they spend money exception being larger or high end re not a large part of the market.

    3. fredwilson

      just in the four verticals that dronebase currently targets (insurance, real estate, construction, and telecom), the number of potential applications is huge

      1. curtissumpter

        Hmmm … I imagine utilities will be significant as well. Inspecting all of those high power lines or substations in an automated fashion should be sizeable.Okay. Thanks.

      2. Richard

        Choose another adjective, trump spoiled that one.

        1. JamesHRH

          Saying Yuge is 10x more fun than it was 24 months ago.

      3. Henry Yates

        Real estate professionals are slow adopters. We have been offering Dronebase’s service in the UK for about a year. We had a lot of initial interest but not a huge take up. Those that do use it tend to come back for more. For real estate I reckon we are still in the early adopters phase.

        1. LE

          Goes along with my comment having dealt with a number of commerical realtors for other products and services. Commission based anything that costs is a tough sell. And like any small business tend to do what the competition does with blind faith. And residential is even more frugal..typically.

  2. andrew furman

    I have a DJI Mavic Pro, and I have a lot of free time, so this seems like the perfect part time job for me. HOWEVER, if you google “make money on drone base” you’ll see a bunch of terrible payout stats from other pilots. So I’m not sure there is a massive market for this imagery as of now.

    1. fredwilson

      i just ran that google query and did not see the stats you are mentioning. can you point me to them?i don’t know if dronebase has published the size of its pilot network so i don’t want to put numbers in here without checking on that, but the size of the pilot network is vast.if there is a gating factor on market size right now, its on the demand side, not the supply side.

        1. Nicholas Osgood

          This is an old video and he is referencing Pano Missions, which take about 15 minutes of flight time.

          1. andrew furman

            Thanks for the reply Nicholas! Awesome to connect with founders.That being said, I’m only seeing pano missions in both NYC and SF as of today. Will there be push notifications in the app for client work?

          2. Nicholas Osgood

            No problem! Client missions are pushed to pilots, and are only available to see on the “map” if you get a notification. Point of clarification (I was 1st employee not Founder level). Make sure to read the DroneBase pilot faq: http://go.dronebase.com/faq

        2. Rachael

          There is spec work and then their is Fictitous spec work (not originated by anyone). This seems like a shady practice?https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    2. jason wright

      Is that a bicycle?

  3. Ryan Frew

    Grammar Correction – Title – Dronebase* API

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks!!! Fixed

  4. LIAD

    Similarities to Uber dynamic at play?2-sided market with one side potentially being automated away in medium-term.Interesting to see difference in margin forecasts for 2 and 5 yrs time.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a good 140 character way to say what took me way more

      1. LE

        They need to use their early lead and knowledge of the business to branch out to more things than just labor for drone footage.

    2. kevando

      As a PHP developer, I love this.

  5. jason wright

    I await nano drones, on the land, in the air, at sea, everywhere.

  6. William Mougayar

    Curious why is Dronebase focused exclusively on the DJI drone, and would they expect to potentially support other drone manufacturers in the future?

    1. Nicholas Osgood

      DJI invested in DroneBase and DJI is the leader in market share for consumer + prosumer drones.

      1. Richard

        How do gigs in LA get around the permit fees for public commecial use filming, which starts > $500? See lAfilm.com

    2. fredwilson

      DJI ran the table on the drone market. There may be new entrants that change the dynamic but right now they own the market at both the consumer and professional level

      1. William Mougayar

        yup, sadly the reality.but I don’t like monopolies. (i didn’t know DJI invested in DB)

  7. LE

    Dronebase should add ‘entertainment’ ‘news’ ‘motion pictures’ to their industries tab. Plenty of small tv stations and filmakers that are or already using or could be using drones. Price point of this type of professional services is almost certainly much higher than, say, a residential realtor…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  8. Don

    Pilots need some better training for missions along with some better payout missions being available. This will increase quality this generating more revenue in the long run. Maybe pay some local pilots around the country as “instructor pilots”, who can go around and do some one on one training.

  9. Kin Lane

    Interesting approach. Definitely speaks to what the space is needing. I’m guessing that the next big opportunity will in cloud pipelines that support drone activity during flight and post production.