Co-Founder Ken King is also Managing Director of Freespace Operations an Australian SME who design & manufacture world leading industrial heavy lift multirotor drone systems for the defence & commercial sectors. Starting with our flagship Callisto industrial drone we plan to disrupt the current market offerings with significant improvements in modularity, payload, range, endurance, safety, noise & reliability. Our Callisto has a number of USPs that we think the industry is going to embrace.
You can visit the Freespace Operations website here www.freespaceoperations.com.au
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
My goals are to propose & demonstrate our industrial drone solutions to clients that are already using smaller drone & to new clients who are considering drones to replace existing activities or for completely new operations. There is a lot of technical & regulatory requirements to meet to achieve these goals which we are establishing with the regulators which requires creating of new systems & manuals to execute. We need to smooth the road for our clients & regulators alike to allow our high-performance products to be used more readily & safely.
What are your biggest challenges?
Going up against much larger & established drone manufacturers & convincing clients to choose our solutions over our more renowned competition. There are many companies claiming to have similar industrial solutions but very little video evidence to suggest their success – renders are not reality. We back up all of our performance claims by offering live demos to clients as they require.
How has your business strategy been adapted in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?
We decided to hold off on our Callisto product launch from Q2 to Q3 to give us more time to offer more operations & payload integration options during the Q3 release when the majority of business are coming out fighting from their COVID dormancy.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
The pace of technical & performance improvements appear to be outpacing the regulatory framework although fair credit needs to be given to aviation regulators for being proactive in this area. Proving long term reliability of the drones will be one of the biggest goals for almost every industrial drone manufacturer & operator alike especially as applications such as last mile delivery in urban areas become viable businesses.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
Heavy lift payload drone such as our Callisto system will allow much more work to be done & faster compared to the current smaller systems. Much longer range & endurance drone are coming in the form of serial hybrid petrol ICE hybrid power systems allowing near future drones to fly for hours instead of minutes.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
We would like to see more rigour from the regulators in weeding out the bad actors from the industry from phony manufacturers making bogus claims they can’t back up to rogue operators using drones without the proper care & attention this industry deserves. All of these negative scenarios hurt our industry, damage general client trust & detract from the amazing effort done thus far from the good guys pioneers who have brought us thus far already.
Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?
The industrial drone market is still emergent, so it is difficult to find suitable talent in the fields we need. These skills are also in competition with other technology areas such as land based robotic vehicles.
How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
Brexit has had very little effect in the Australian markets where we currently base the majority of our sales although we will be selling to Europe & the Americas from 2021.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Success is demonstrating our product & services to our clients & establishing a consulting & flight operations service, maintenance service, system integration & client support infrastructure over the coming years. We will be offering continual hardware & software improvement of our products & as the technology is still rapidly evolving it is a safe bet to make that our products will offer improvements in capability as they age than when they were initially sold.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
Some of the best advice I’ve been given is to be the best at what we do before competing with other established players in the markets.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Seeing our Callisto drone system lift & swing over 20kg payload around in total control was amazing to see & made us swell with pride with how far our product have developed in the last 3 years – it’s really something to see a new device that you can transport in typical car being quickly assembled in the field doing what would have taken a small helicopter to achieve less than a decade ago. Also selling our products & services to Australian Defense Forces were key milestones for our growing business.
What’s next for your company?
Launching of our premium product, the Callisto industrial multi-rotor system which shows our USPs to enable reliable use larger drone systems in the industrial applications. We have a number of variants of the Callisto designed to meet a wide range of client payload & mission requirements.
What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020/21?
The opportunities are immense with large industrial drones able to increase speed, productivity & reduce costs while also removing workers wholesale from risky scenarios. Exactly what the post COVID world needs to rebuild businesses leaner & meaner.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
To be the premier heavy lift industrial drone platform for Australian specialist applications & to begin establishing global sales to Europe & the Americas.