Commercial Drones FM

By Ian Smith

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The commercial drone industry is projected to be worth more than $20 billion in the next 10 years. Commercial Drones FM is the podcast for the drone industry. Your host, Ian Smith—a helicopter pilot and international drone operator—guides you in discovering the people who power the drone industry, the concepts that drive it, and the global industries who already use drones in their businesses today.

Episode Date
#077 - A Drone Industry Perspective from Drone Radio Show

Ian Smith, host of Commercial Drones FM podcast, joins Randy Goers' Drone Radio Show as a guest to talk about what has happened in the commercial drone industry over the past 2-years from 2016 to 2018.

Aug 02, 2018
#076 - Drone Services with DroneBase CEO, Dan Burton

DroneBase is one of the world's largest, professional drone service provider networks. Think of it as "Uber for drone pilots". If you need a drone operator to come accomplish a mission for you, chances are, you can get one through DroneBase.

Dan Burton is CEO of DroneBase and has been leading the charge at the Southern California-based company since its inception. The company has grown to become a premier name in the DSP (drone service provider) space and represents an approach that can truly scale as the industry grows. DroneBase is also taking experimental approaches to software with an AR (augmented reality) app.

Jul 19, 2018
#075 - Drone Industry Review: Q2 2018

The drone industry report for Q2 2018, brought to you by Commercial Drones FM. Get briefed on the most important and newsworthy happenings from the previous quarter in the drone industry—all in less than 20-minutes.

Covered topics include drone hardware, drone software, regulations, drone delivery, funding, mergers and acquisitions, and more.

Jul 06, 2018
#074 - Drone Inspection Software with Ken Falk

Drone-based inspections are rocketing in popularity. Businesses are employing drones en masse to help analyze the health of their assets. As onboard sensors and hardware improve, the software that facilitates many of the actual visual inspection activities continues to advance.

Ken Falk is CEO and founder of Scopito, a software company from Denmark specializing in helping their clients accomplish efficient drone-based inspections. Ken and Ian speak about why drone inspection software is critical, advancements in A.I. for automatically detecting anomalies in images, and much more.

Jun 21, 2018
#073 - All About Drones from The Drawing Board

Hear host Ian Smith answer questions about drones on a podcast instead of always being the one asking them. This week's episode of CDFM is a syndication of Udacity's, The Drawing Board podcast, titled, "All About Drones." Ian is joined by Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio where the two talk... all about drones.

Jun 07, 2018
#072 - Why Ford Is Building Drones with Adi Singh

Why is Ford, a legacy automobile company, building drones? Adi Singh, Principal Scientist for UAV Systems at Ford's Silicon Valley office, explains all the ways that Ford is researching and planning on using drones in their global business. And it's not just flying cars.

May 24, 2018
#071 - Security Drones with Jack Wu, CEO of Nightingale Security

Nightingale Security is a robotic aerial security company - not a traditional drone company. But they do make robotic aerial security platforms (drones) and fleet management software that their clients deploy to help protect their assets and integrate with their existing security teams.

Jack Wu is the co-founder and CEO of Nightingale Security.

May 10, 2018
#070 - Fully Autonomous Drones with Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio

Skydio is a very special drone company with a thought-provoking inaugural product. R1, the company's first drone, costs $2,499, is fully autonomous, and it's marketed mainly to hobbyists.

So why does a startup's initial product, targeted for consumers, have me so excited? Well, the answer is not what their technology is currently capable of, but what it represents for the future of commercial drones.

When designing R1, Skydio took a unique philosophical approach to what's currently available on the market. R1 is different than other drones - it flies itself and doesn't even come with a controller.

Adam Bry is CEO and co-founder of Skydio. He graduated from MIT, was one of the early team members of Google X's delivery drone initiative, Project Wing, and then started Skydio.

I sat down with Adam to learn about what's possible right now with the powerful onboard processors and AI that guides Skydio drones, unscathed, through crowded, obstacle-laden environments. We discuss the design inspiration behind R1, a future Skydio platform and SDK, and how commercial drones will continue to evolve.

Apr 26, 2018
#069 - Drone Industry Review: Q1 2018

The drone industry report for Q1 2018, brought to you by Commercial Drones FM. Get briefed on the most important and newsworthy happenings from the previous quarter in the drone industry—all in less than 20-minutes.

Covered topics include drone hardware, drone software, regulations, drone delivery, funding, mergers and acquisitions, and more.

Get the full Q1 2018 drone industry review episode transcript below.

Apr 12, 2018
#068 - DJI's New Payload SDK with DJI, FLIR, and SLANTRANGE

Today, March 28th, 2018, DJI have announced the availability and launch of their Payload SDK.

This is important news for the drone industry since it now means that different sensors, regardless of manufacturer, can now integrate directly into DJI drone platforms, as if they were native.

Previously, sensor manufacturers had to essentially bolt their products directly onto the drone, meaning that the sensor itself wasn’t even able to access critical metadata from the flight, like altitude, heading, or GPS location, and couldn’t even be controlled by the drone’s software. OEMs are still literally embedding an entire secondary autopilot into sensors because of this.

Now, sensor OEMs can ditch the extra weight of the added, redundant components, and just plug into the DJI drone and piggyback directly off of the drone’s existing flight controller and IMU. Operators can now even control the 3rd party sensor directly from DJI’s own app.

Of course, this is all tailored to and made possible by DJI’s large, projected 70%+ holding of market share. But that’s not a novel situation these days and by and large, DJI continues to make the most user-friendly, easiest-to-adopt drones on the market.


On this exclusive interview, you’ll hear directly from DJI and two of their sensor partners, FLIR and SLANTRANGE, who both have adopted DJI’s Payload SDK and integrated their products with it.

Mar 28, 2018
#067 - The "Just Drone" Problem with Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen is CEO of Industrial Skyworks, a Toronto-based drone inspection software and services company.

Michael teaches Ian about the "just drone" problem, where if you provide industrial inspection services (or nearly any remote sensing services) with *just* a drone and don't pay attention to how to actually deliver, present, and derive value from the data, the entire mission and final deliverables can essentially be rendered useless to the customer.

Michael and Ian also discuss valuable lessons learned in scaling drone services and growing a drone business that caters to demanding industrial customers.

Mar 15, 2018
#066 - Drones In A Box with Percepto's Dor Abuhasira

What is a drone in a box and why is it important?

A drone-in-a-box is essentially a drone that lives inside of a box (stay with me here) and the box is deployed in a specific area, out in the wild, for an extended period of time. The box may have a power source hooked up to it or use solar panels to store power for recharging the drone. The drone, which, of course, lives in the box, will make scheduled flights and fly out of the box automatically to fly a mission and then return to charge its batteries when the mission is complete. Rinse and repeat as desired.

This is "getting the human out of the loop."

Percepto is an Israeli company who manufacture a full drone-in-a-box system. Dor Abuhasira is the CEO of Percepto, an Israeli company.

Dor joins Ian to discuss the technology behind automating these types of drones and what the future holds for drones in a box.

Mar 01, 2018
#065 - Drone Solution Selling with Topcon's Dave Henderson

Commercial Drones FM podcast brings you Dave Henderson, Director of Sales, Geospatial Solutions, for Topcon Positioning systems. This episode covers drone solution selling and an overview of Topcon's drone hardware and software products.

Dave Henderson’s career in the positioning business spans three decades. Prior to joining Topcon Positioning Systems, Dave held several industry positions as a District & Regional Sales Manager of Surveying, GPS & GIS mapping products. Henderson’s primary focus at Topcon is sales and business development of unmanned aerial systems and LiDAR mobile mapping for the Americas.

Throughout his career, Henderson’s focus has been to specialize in assisting businesses, organizations and individuals to implement technology into existing workflows, thereby increasing their productivity and becoming more competitive in the current marketplace. Henderson has become both a knowledgeable resource and a trusted advisor to businesses and organizations throughout the initial discussions, implementation and ROI of adopting positioning technology such as vehicle mobile mapping and unmanned aerial systems.

Feb 15, 2018
#064 - AUVSI's Role In The Drone Industry with Brian Wynne

Brian Wynne is President and CEO of AUVSI (Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the unmanned systems and robotics industry through communication, education, and leadership.

Believe it or not, AUVSI was founded in 1972 when the use of target drones as reconnaissance assets during the Vietnam War prompted a group of U.S. Air Force officers and contractors in Dayton, Ohio to form the National Association of Remotely Piloted Vehicles (NARPV), which would later become known as AUVSI.

Throughout these 46-years of existence, unmanned systems have changed a lot. Brian and Ian discuss a plethora of topics from drone data security, the dichotomy between commercial and military drones, how blockchain technology can be used to help with drone integration and safety, and what AUVSI's role is as we move towards the future of the commercial drone industry.

Feb 01, 2018
#063 - Drone Industry Review: Q4 2017

The drone industry report for Q4 2017, brought to you by Commercial Drones FM. Get briefed on the most important and newsworthy happenings from the previous quarter in the drone industry. Covered topics include drone hardware, drone software, regulations, drone delivery, funding, & more.

Jan 18, 2018
#062 - FAA UAS Integration with Major General Hoot Gibson

Major General Marke "Hoot" Gibson was Senior Advisor, UAS Integration at the FAA during a critical, two-year period of explosive growth for the drone industry. Very recently, Hoot has moved on from his FAA role and settled into being the first CEO of the NUAIR Alliance, a UAS test site in Syracuse, New York.

During his time at the FAA, Hoot drew from his vast wealth of experience as a decorated A-10 Warthog pilot in the U.S. Air Force to advise the Administration on integration efforts of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS).

Hoot and Ian discuss the FAA's recent Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program and how it positively affects not only commercial drone operators, but the way that the FAA fundamentally does business. The two additionally explore plenty of other initialisms; Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP), Counter UAS (cUAS), Remote Identification, and more.

Jan 04, 2018
#061 - An Exclusive Conversation With DJI On Drone Data Security

DJI is, by far, the world's largest drone company. Recently, there have been a slew of controversial reports and conversations about the Chinese drone giant in the media, across social channels, and in boardrooms. From allegedly sharing data from U.S.-based drones with the Chinese government, to potential legal action against a security researcher who was part of their bug bounty program.

Choosing Commercial Drones FM as the channel in which to further discuss these topics, Michael Perry, Managing Director of North America for DJI, sits down with Ian to provide unscripted background and insight into all of the latest news surrounding DJI.

Dec 21, 2017
#060 - 2017 Drone Market Trends And Analysis with Colin Snow

2017 was a banner year for the drone industry. While the drone market as a whole grew, plenty of assumptions were proven false. Colin Snow, The Drone Analyst, is CEO of Skylogic Research, who recently released an 88-page report titled, "2017 Drone Market Sector Report".

Colin's report shows proves things that we already knew, like DJI having 72% global market share on drone sales, but also shows surprising developments, like the vast majority of all people (68%) who purchase drones above 250 grams intend to use those drones for some kind of professional (commercial) use. Ian and Colin discuss these facts and much more from the latest Skylogic Research report.

Dec 07, 2017
#059 - Drone Inspections for Enterprise with James Harrison

Sky-Futures, founded in 2009, is one of the oldest drone service businesses that exist. The company specializes in providing drone-based inspection services to global industrial enterprises.

James Harrison is Sky-Futures' CEO and has been with the company since the beginning. James and Ian speak about the demanding requirements of enterprise clients who request drone services, U.K. drone regulations, the drone hardware the company has used historically, and much more.

Nov 25, 2017
#058 - Intel's Drone Ecosystem with Anil Nanduri

Intel is a global, multi-billion dollar public company and they have their hands in all areas of technology. As a legacy Silicon Valley juggernaut, they've found that innovation is key to survival.

Anil Nanduri, GM of the Drone Group at Intel, joins Ian to explain Intel's strategy around drones. From acquiring a multirotor manufacturer (Ascending-Technologies), a fixed-wing manufacturer (Mavinci), a computer vision chip manufacturer (Movidius), making their own entertainment drones, and even creating impressive technology like RealSense, Intel knows more than anyone how important it is to diversify and create a thriving drone ecosystem.

Nov 08, 2017
#057 - Airbus Aerial with Jesse Kallman

Airbus is a global aerospace company who have a wide variety of divisions and assets. Besides their airliners, Airbus also has access to a huge cache of up-to-date, high-resolution satellite imagery—so it was only natural that they create one of their newest companies, Airbus Aerial.

Airbus Aerial is a startup that, according to their website, leverages the most advanced aerospace technologies to collect and deliver only the data and services that matter most to your organization.

Our guest, Jesse Kallman, is the President of Airbus Aerial, leading the team to enable a future of digital services via satellites, high altitude, and small low altitude UAVs.

Oct 27, 2017
#056 - Drone Industry Review: Q3 2017

Drone Industry Review is a special, quarterly podcast series brought to you by Commercial Drones FM. It briefs listeners on the most important and newsworthy happenings from the previous quarter in the drone industry. Covered topics include drone hardware, software, regulations, funding, M&A, delivery drones, and how drones affected various industries in that quarter. This is the third episode in this series where we conduct the Drone Industry Review of Q3 2017.

Oct 12, 2017
#055 - Tethered Drones with AeroMana

AeroMana is a startup that provides tethered drone solutions. A drone that is tethered means that it is attached by wire to the ground, presumably to an external power source, giving the drone potentially "unlimited" endurance.

AeroMana's CEO, Jon Miller and CSO, Manuel Lombardini, join Ian to discuss how tethered drones provide unique flexibility for specific types of operations by enabling them to fly for hours, not minutes. Making all of that data useful is the next big challenge so AeroMana also provide proprietary analytics software for applications from sports to firefighting to surveillance.

The trio also explore the regulations around tethered drones and give their opinion on whether they should (or shouldn't) be treated the same way as non-tethered, "traditional" drones.

Sep 28, 2017
#054 - Aerial Drone Cinematography with Brian Streem

This episode of Commercial Drones FM focuses on aerial cinematography and the business behind it. Brian Streem is CEO of Aerobo, a nationwide drone service provider who claim to have shot more live telecasts than any other drone company in the world.

Aerobo operates drones internationally for their clients, working on the News, TV, Sports, Advertising, and Cinema segments of multimedia. They also provide inspection services.

Brian explains the ins and outs of high-end, Hollywood blockbuster drone cinematography, detailing what it's like to be working on movie sets for the likes of Steven Spielberg—and how much pressure there is to "get the shot". And pressure should definitely be expected when Aerobo can charge their clients anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000 per day.

Be sure to check out the podcast website to view two of Brian's coolest drone films, “At The End Of The Cul-de-Sac” and "CHROMATICITY".

Sep 14, 2017
#053 - Drones In Construction with Todd Wynne

Drones are incredibly useful in the construction industry. Giving construction companies the power to get high-resolution, aerial views of their job sites every single day and the ability to increase safety has undeniable ROI.

Todd Wynne, a construction veteran, nerd, and co-founder of Project Atlas joins Ian to deconstruct how drones are revolutionizing the way construction projects are now being completed. Todd explains how even though technology has advanced rapidly in the past 20-years, so much of the way construction is conducted today is still stuck in the past.

Project Atlas, the company, bills itself as a mapping engine for projects—essentially, Google Maps for the construction industry. Project Atlas is officially launching their service on October 9th, 2017.

To donate to the GoFundMe for the team using drones to map Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, go to

Aug 31, 2017
#052 - Cisco's Drone Program with Biren Gandhi

This is how a business with nearly $50 billion in revenue views drone technology. Cisco is a publicly-traded network equipment company, but its reach extends much farther beyond just servers and wireless access points.

Biren Gandhi is a Distinguished Strategist in Cisco’s Corporate Strategy Office, focused on identifying key technology trends and accelerating their adoption through acquisitions, development, or partnering. And he's got his eye on drones.Biren and Ian discuss the future of connected drones and how these flying robots could essentially be boiled down to IoT devices which will soon be networked within a

Biren and Ian discuss the future of connected drones and how these flying robots could, in the future, essentially be boiled down to IoT devices that are networked within a blockchain, becoming just some of the active cogs inside of a distributed fog computing machine. Yeah, pretty amazing.

Biren Gandhi will be presenting at Drone World Expo on October 3-4, 2017 in San Jose, CA.

Aug 17, 2017
#051 - How To Get One Million Dollars For Your Drone Startup Idea

A skydiver, a Ph.D., and an incubator director walk into a drone podcast... This is the story of Genius NY, an unmanned systems startup incubator based in Syracuse, New York, and two startups that they've funded.

Genius NY director, Jon Parry, brings Jimmy Halliday, Aviation Director at AutoModality, and Sasi Viswanathan, co-founder of Akrobotix—both Genius NY portfolio companies—to the Commercial Drones FM podcast.

The group discuss how companies are winning millions of dollars by participating in the Genius NY startup competitions, what they're doing with their cash winnings, and how New York state is contributing to the proliferation of the commercial drone industry.

Aug 03, 2017
#050 - Oil And Gas Inspection Drones with Cyberhawk's Chris Fleming

Cyberhawk, a Scotland-based drone inspection company, has logged over 18,000 flights and accomplished 25 world firsts with drones since their founding in 2008. The nine-year-old company has done the first drone oil rig inspection, wind turbine inspection, transmission tower inspection, and even the first internal chimney inspection.

Cyberhawk CEO, Chris Fleming, joins Ian for an uncut interview where the two dive deep into how Cyberhawk accomplishes industrial drone inspections for massive, global companies. Chris explains how using drones for flare stack inspections can save oil and gas companies $1.5 million per day in recovered production costs, showcasing how much is really at stake when providing services to their multi-billion dollar clients.

This is just one of the reasons that helps understand why, "if your hands aren't shaking, you aren't flying for Cyberhawk."

Jul 20, 2017
#049 - Drone Industry Review: Q2 2017

Drone Industry Review is a special, quarterly podcast series brought to you by Commercial Drones FM. It briefs listeners on the most important and newsworthy happenings from the previous quarter in the drone industry. Covered topics include drone hardware, software, regulations, funding, M&A, delivery drones, and how drones affected various industries in that quarter. This is the second episode in this series where we conduct the Drone Industry Review of Q2 2017.

Jul 06, 2017
#048 - What's The Value Of The Drone Industry? with PwC and XYZ Kingfisher APS

Ian takes you to Europe where he investigates the inner workings of how a drone industry market report is created. To do that, he heads to Warsaw, Poland to speak with Adam Wiśniewski, Director of the Drone Powered Solutions team at PwC, who released a series of drone industry reports titled, "Clarity from above" that peg the total, global drone industry's addressable market at $127.3 billion.

Ian also makes a quick detour to London where he links up with Adam Bailey, Director at XYZ Kingfisher APS, a high-end drone service provider. Adam and Ian discuss the PwC drone reports and how they relate to reality.

Jun 22, 2017
#047 - Virginia Is For Unmanned Systems Lovers with Karen Jackson

Karen Jackson is Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is the first female to hold that position.

Ian asks Karen to explain why Virginia is trying to lead the way for unmanned innovations in drones and driverless cars. Plus, the two discuss the dichotomy between state vs. local vs. federal regulation of commercial drone operations. Ian and Karen come to discover that a patchwork of regulatory differences could be very confusing for businesses who are looking to leverage drone technology.

Jun 08, 2017
#046 - Drones In Energy & Utilities with Mitch Droz

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is Washington's largest private utility. They provide electricity, natural gas, and generation to their territory. Among other assets, PSE manages over 2,000 miles of linear transmission network in the Pacific Northwest and the company has recently been conducting pilot tests with drones.

Our guest, Mitch Droz, is a Commercial Development Manager in the Emerging Technologies group at Puget Sound Energy and is a certified Part 107 pilot.

Mitch and Ian take a deep dive into the myriad of ways in which drones are being used in the energy and utilities sector today. Mitch explains the use cases and value drivers which drones help Puget Sound Energy discover while using drone technology on dams, transmission lines, monitoring vegetation, inspecting transmission towers, and more.

This episode was brought to you by the Energy Drone Coalition Summit whose inaugural event is taking place in Houston, Texas on June 20th and 21st, 2017. Commercial Drones FM podcast listeners get 20% off tickets by using discount code "CDFM20". Visit the website at

May 25, 2017
#045 - 3D Robotics with Daniel McKinnon

In April 2017, 3D Robotics raised a $53 million Series D round, bringing total funding to over $178 million. Daniel McKinnon is VP of Product at 3D Robotics and holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He started at 3DR as a Product Manager and worked his way up the ladder. Dan is also an advisor at Agribotix, an analytics platform for farmers, which he co-founded. Dan and Ian discuss the aftermath of 3DR's Solo drone—the catalyst of the company's recent pivot from hardware to software—and get an inside look at why the company is now focusing on enterprise drone software for the construction industry with their newest product, Site Scan.

May 18, 2017
#044 - Drone Swarms For Sustainable Forestry with DroneSeed

DroneSeed works with timber companies and non-profits to plant tree seeds, spray them with herbicides, and monitor their growth—all with drones. They're based in Seattle, Washington and are the first company approved by the FAA to deliver agricultural payloads by drone swarms. CEO Grant Canary and CTO Jeff Prouty join Ian to discuss how their drone company is built to help the planet maintain sustainable growth in the forestry industry and offset carbon emissions.

May 04, 2017
#043 - Drone Operational Standards Are Your Friend with Harrison Wolf

As evidenced by the mature corporate and general aviation industries, the drone industry has an opportunity to flourish with pilots who advocate proper standards. One prerequisite to getting a big contract for operating a drone for large organizations is understanding that these companies are risk-averse. They cannot risk hiring a contractor to operate drones for them if the operator cannot furnish proof of compliance to proper standards.

One way drone operators can begin developing this culture of safety is by implementing an SMS program, establishing documentation practices, and creating a drone operations manual.

Harrison Wolf is Technical Chair for the ASTM sUAS Operational Risk Assessment Standard, teaches safety management for drones at USC, and has his own drone consultancy called Wolf UAS. Harrison joins Ian to discuss how focusing on being a safe, compliant drone company can lead to huge rewards and has the benefit of setting yourself apart from the crowd of casual drone pilots.

Apr 20, 2017
#042 - Drone Industry Review: Q1 2017

Drone Industry Review is a special podcast series brought to you by Commercial Drones FM. It briefs listeners on the most important and newsworthy happenings from the previous quarter in the drone industry. Covered topics include drone hardware, software, regulations, funding, M&A, delivery drones, and how drones affected various industries in that quarter. The inaugural episode begins with  the Drone Industry Review of Q1 2017.

Apr 13, 2017
#041 - Bringing Advanced Computer Vision To Industrial Drones with Alex Harmsen

Iris Automation is a Y Combinator startup who recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding to bring sense and avoid technology to drones used for industry. Buzz words like computer vision, deep learning, and artificial intelligence only begin to scratch the surface in describing what the company is building.

To sense issues and avoid them, powerful onboard drone hardware allows Iris Automation's software to track birds and other aircraft, predict their trajectories, reconstruct the scene in 3D at hundreds of meters of range, and then notify the drone operator of issues in real-time—or even take evasive action autonomously.

Alex Harmsen is CEO and co-founder of Iris Automation and joins Ian to discuss why sense and avoid technology is a requirement for building trust in industrial drones—and ultimately, how it should make them boring.

Mar 30, 2017
#040 - Drones Falling Out Of The Sky with Forbes' Ryan Mac

This is the story behind GoPro's harrowing entry into the global drone market. Just 6 days after GoPro released Karma, their first flagship drone, units began to inexplicably fall out of the sky, triggering a global recall of the product. There were many events that led up to this point but were previously unknown to the public. Forbes Staff Writer Ryan Mac joins Ian and tells the tale of how GoPro's Karma drone came to be, how it was rushed for release, and the ensuing aftermath of the global recall once these drones came crashing down. This story is based on Ryan Mac's Forbes article titled, "The Sky Is Falling For GoPro."

Mar 22, 2017
#039 - Thirteen Years in Drones and Beyond with Gretchen West

Ian reunites with past drone industry colleague, Gretchen West, who is Senior Advisor for Innovation & Technology at Hogan Lovells and Co-Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. Gretchen has been in the drone industry for 13 years. She brings her refreshingly pragmatic views to the podcast to give a lesson on how power is balanced between President Trump's administration and the FAA. Gretchen also reveals that Section 333 "closed set" exemptions were quietly revoked by the FAA and reviews the challenges of their waiver process, which is available to commercial drone operators. Gretchen and Ian close with some realistic advice to those who are interested in starting a company in the drone industry and suggestions on where the greatest opportunities exist.

Mar 09, 2017
#038 - Overview of the DJI Matrice 200 Drone Platform

On February 26th, 2017, DJI announced the new Matrice 200 platform at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Matrice 200 comes in three variants; the M200, M210, and M210 RTK. This new drone platform marks DJI's serious and well-considered entry into industrial-grade drones for enterprise. With hugely useful features like ADS-B, dual and top-mounted gimbals, redundancy, and IP43 classification, this multirotor is poised as an incredible threat to senseFly's Albris, Intel's Falcon 8, and Aerialtronics' Altura Zenith (among others). An estimated 38 minutes of flight time and compatibility with the latest Zenmuse suite of cameras round out the DJI M200's impressive specs. The only thing DJI has left to do is deliver.

Feb 28, 2017
#037 - Drones At Scale with Airware's Buddy Michini

Airware is a commercial drone company which was founded in 2011, a couple of years before the drone industry truly began to explode in popularity. They're somewhat notorious for having raised more venture capital funding than nearly any other drone company—over $100 million. Airware recently acquired Redbird, a drone software business which specializes in providing solutions to the mining and quarry industry. Furthermore, shortly after this interview took place, Airware announced that they took on a strategic investment from Caterpillar, the global leader in construction machinery. Buddy Michini, Airware's CTO, has been with the company since the beginning. Buddy sits down with Ian to discuss Airware's history, their strategic enterprise focus towards the mining and utility industries, and reveal learnings from 9 years in commercial drones. The conversation also touches on Airware's work with State Farm Insurance and tips on what skills are useful to start a career in the drone industry.

Feb 23, 2017
#036 - Improving Cell Tower Inspection By Using Drones with AT&T's Art Pregler

AT&T has 65,000 cell sites around the U.S. which require constant maintenance. Some of these cell sites can be towers that are hundreds of feet high and others can be massive stadiums with hundreds of antennae. The site maintenance is accomplished by 15,000 tower technicians. Technicians perform their tasks by risking their lives, physically climbing up the cell towers, or burn lots of time walking around stadiums for entire weeks, testing signal strength. Art Pregler is the Director of Construction & Engineering Mobility Systems at AT&T. The company moved from a drone "exploratory phase" in 2015 to "fully operational" in September 2016, with an entirely outsourced model—hiring 3rd party drone service providers. AT&T employs these drone service providers to inspect their cell towers via aerial photos, videos, photogrammetry, and even machine learning. Ian coaxes Art to reveal how—among other things—using drones decreased AT&T's cell site maintenance times from one week, to just four hours, a 900% savings.

Feb 16, 2017
#035 - A Drone Can Literally Kill You—But Also Save Your Life with PrecisionHawk's Thomas Haun

Thomas Haun is Executive Vice President of PrecisionHawk, a drone company in North Carolina with $29 million in total venture funding. Besides developing their own software, making a fixed-wing drone, and reselling DJI drones, PrecisionHawk works on beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) regulatory research with the FAA on the Pathfinder program. Additionally, the company develops LATAS, a technology for the future of airspace management. And to round it all out, PrecisionHawk even owns a satellite imagery company called TerraServer. Thomas and Ian discuss the dichotomy between commercial drones and regulations, the future of PrecisionHawk, and the fact that a drone can literally kill you—but also save your life.

Feb 09, 2017
#034 - Who Truly Owns the Airspace and Why Can't I Shoot Down Drones? with Drone Law Today's Steve Hogan

Steve Hogan is an attorney in Florida whose firm specializes in drone law. He's also the host and creator of the Drone Law Today podcast. Ian and Steve sync up over the airwaves to grapple with some hotly debated (and controversial) drone legal issues. Who owns the airspace above my house? Is shooting a drone out of the sky a federal offense? What will Trump's administration do for—or against—commercial drones? And Do I need a Part 107 certificate to compete in drone FPV racing for money? Steve and Ian make a concentrated, joint effort to get to the bottom of these issues and settle them once and for all. Unsurprisingly, it gets pretty complicated.

Feb 02, 2017
#033 - Is The Drone Industry In a Decline? Lily's Downfall, Parrot's Layoffs, & The Latest Drone Industry News with Recode's April Glaser

Lily Robotics has spectacularly failed and is being sued by the City of San Francisco. CES 2017 is said to have had fewer drone companies than previous years. Parrot laid off a third of its drone division. GoPro's Karma drone literally fell out of the sky. The FAA has issued their largest fine, ever. Does this mean the drone industry is in a decline? April Glaser, who covers robots, drones, artificial intelligence and other smart machines for Recode, joins Ian to discuss these events and others. Tune in for analysis on the latest drone industry news as 2017 gets off to an exciting start.

Jan 25, 2017
#032 - Drones For: Good, Search and Rescue, and Enterprise with DJI's Romeo Durscher

Romeo Durscher is Director of Education at DJI, the world's largest, most successful drone manufacturer. His job is one of the most fascinating in the world. Romeo acts as global ambassador for safe and effective use of drone technology. His mission takes him all over the planet—from tackling safety challenges with the United Nations in the Maldives, exploring caves in Vietnam with ABC's Good Morning America, and pioneering drone use with mountain search and rescue teams on a glacier. Romeo and Ian speak about all of this—including DJI's plans for their DJI Enterprise division—for a truly epic episode of Commercial Drones FM.

Jan 19, 2017
#031 - The U.S. Department of the Interior: 500 Million Acres & 1,200 Aircraft (Drones Included) with Mark Bathrick

With over 500 million acres of land under their management, the Department of the Interior (DOI) is the largest single landowner in the United States. The DOI maintains this land for U.S. citizens and in order to keep eyes on it, have 1,200+ aircraft in their fleet—drones included. Mark Bathrick, an ex-Navy TOPGUN fighter and test pilot, is the Director of Aviation (OAS) for the DOI and joins Ian to discuss how an organization of 70,000 employees make use of drones and how aviation plays such a critical role in their success. From fighting forest fires and monitoring wildlife, to maintaining the Statue of Liberty and giving us the 4 key competencies that drone companies need to master for success, Mark's experience provides a wealth of wisdom for anyone who uses drones commercially.

Jan 11, 2017
#030 - LiDAR Drones: What Is LiDAR and Why Do I Need It? with Harris Wang

LiDAR is an impressive and interesting sensor technology which already powers parts of the driverless car industry. LiDAR sensors can somewhat be thought of as a clever mixture of photogrammetry and radar. It is extremely precise and can provide incredibly accurate datasets. Harris Wang, Strategic Markets Director at Velodyne LiDAR Inc., joins Ian to explore how LiDAR is being used on drones. Industries like utilities, surveying, forestry, and inspection can reap insane benefits by using LiDAR—but it has historically been quite heavy and very expensive. Harris explains how the technology is becoming cheaper and smaller, how LiDAR compares to photogrammetry, and how it is being used today and in the future.

Jan 06, 2017
#029 - How To Conduct High Precision Drone Surveys: What To Use and Tips On Improving with Mark Blacklin

Topographic data is some of the most sought after information that can be generated by drones. To ultimately derive this data, terrain contours, point clouds, and digital surface models are created using software like Pix4D and Autodesk Civil 3D. Mark Blacklin is Data Integration and CAD Supervisor at CGRS, a Colorado-based construction, engineering, and compliance service company that serves the petroleum industry. Mark and Ian discuss the complexities of high precision drone missions, drone hardware and software, GPS systems used (RTK, check points), tips for setting ground control points, and what types of deliverables high-end clients expect.

Dec 28, 2016
#028 - How NOAA Spends A $5 Million Drone Budget with Robbie Hood

The United States' NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has many responsibilities but they can essentially be thought of as the federal government's "Environmental Intelligence Agency". Robbie Hood, a meteorologist by trade, is the Director of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program at NOAA. Ian and Robbie discuss the challenges and complexities of how NOAA uses drones for mapping of coastal erosion, studying sea level changes, populations of fisheries and marine mammals, and monitoring weather conditions across their territory of the entire United States—with a budget of $5 million per year.

Dec 22, 2016
#027 - Raising $20 Million and Creating the World's Largest Drone Data Platform with Mike Winn

DroneDeploy is a drone data company who recently raised $20 million to power the further development of their software. Tens of thousands of users from more than 135 countries have collectively processed more than 8 million acres of data using DroneDeploy—larger than the entire country of Belgium. Mike Winn, a serial entrepreneur and ex-Google employee, is CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy. Mike and Ian discuss how the company has found success, DroneDeploy's release of the world's first App Market for drone data, the relationship between the enterprise and drone service providers, and what the next big thing will be for drones.

Dec 15, 2016
#026 - How A Global Enterprise Adopts Drones with Bechtel's Nate Fuller

Bechtel is a massive, global company that tackles multi-billion dollar mega-projects. They plan on integrating drones into their operations for use in their infrastructure, mining, oil and gas, and government services projects. Today, their elaborate drone evaluation is nearly complete. Nate Fuller, Bechtel's Lead UAV Investigator, meets with Ian to reveal the steps it takes for a global enterprise to fully adopt drones—what they look for in hardware and software, how they manage global regulations, the use cases they will implement, and more. This is a fascinating look inside of a company that Fortune magazine says has "changed the face of the physical world more than any other."

Dec 08, 2016
#025 - Analyzing the Growing Drone Industry with Colin Snow

With so much noise surrounding the drone industry, whose opinion are you supposed to trust? Colin Snow AKA "The Drone Analyst" joins Ian to explain why his team's thoughtful, pragmatic approach to analyzing the drone industry sets them apart. Colin and Ian dispel myths surrounding the most common misconceptions with drones, the biggest opportunities that exist for drone companies, and what he believes it the most exciting thing happening in the drone industry right now.

Dec 01, 2016
#024 - How to Monetize Your Drone in 30 Minutes with Derek Waleko

It can be difficult to buy a new drone when the technology is advancing so rapidly. DJI just made two huge product announcements within 6 weeks of each other, which prompted some to cancel one purchase in favor of another. Up Sonder is a startup that makes purchase decisions a no-brainer by allowing you to easily rent your drones to neighbors with free $1,000,000 insurance and $2,500 of full hardware replacement coverage. Derek Waleko, CEO of Up Sonder, joins Ian to explain how they use the Uber Rush API to enable this drone rental marketplace so you can safely monetize your drone.

Nov 23, 2016
#023 - Drones in Agriculture: How They're Really Being Used with Norm Lamothe

There are many misconceptions on how to effectively use drones in agriculture. Norm Lamothe is a farmer, seasoned commercial drone operator, and co-founder at Deveron UAS—a publicly traded, Canadian drone service company. Norm joins Ian to set the story straight by discussing how farmers are really using drones and what they can accomplish by deploying them above their fields.

Nov 17, 2016
#022 - Drone Intelligence, Insight, and Peace of Mind with Joshua Ziering

As a classically trained model aircraft pilot, Joshua Ziering didn't easily imagine a future beyond flying chalupa-shaped blimps inside NHL stadiums. So he did what came naturally and built the future himself. Joshua, along with Jon Hegranes, is cofounder of, a software company which specializes in drone fleet management that helps with every aspect of your operation, from pre-flight to post-flight. Joshua and Ian discuss why is useful, what sets it apart, and a bevy of other drone industry news.

Nov 11, 2016
#021 - De-droning Your Skies with Sebastian Blum

There are many ways that drones benefit society—but unfortunately, with the rise of drones comes the rise of malicious activity. Dedrone is a company which offers an automatic, anti-drone solution for their clients. Prisons, large events, and even presidential debates require solutions that can repel drones with bad intentions. Sebastian Blum, VP of BD at Dedrone, joins Ian to reveal the fascinating technology that Dedrone uses to keeps their clients safe.

Nov 04, 2016
#020 - Drone Compliance is Serious For Business with Eric Kubicka

Think you're a serious drone operator? Then you better take compliance seriously too. Eric Kubicka is a founding partner of DroneLogbook, software for flight tracking, logging, and drone compliance. At their peak, DroneLogbook users track thousands of flights per week. Eric and Ian discuss why compliance is important, trends with enterprise companies entering the drone space, and best practices for operational compliance in general.

Oct 27, 2016
#019 - Breaking Down the Crash of 3D Robotics with Forbes' Ryan Mac

For Forbes, Ryan Mac has written some of the drone industry's seminal articles—covering DJI's Frank Wang, Parrot's Henri Seydoux, and now, Chris Anderson in "The Crash Of 3D Robotics, North America's Most Promising Drone Company". Ryan and Ian discuss the background of the 3DR saga, how the company burned through nearly $100 million, laid off 150 employees, and wound up where they are today. What really caused the crash of 3D Robotics?

Oct 20, 2016
#018 - Drones in Mining with Emmanuel de Maistre

Redbird, a French drone software company, was recently purchased by Airware, an American drone software company. A few weeks before the sale was made public, Ian and Emmanuel, Redbird's then-CEO (now VP of AEC at Airware), recorded this podcast episode. Emmanuel and Ian discuss how large mining and construction companies use drones and why they're important to them. Get a glimpse inside of Redbird as the negotiations for the sale of the company were likely well underway.

Oct 12, 2016
#017 - Inside Drone News with Austin Smith

Ian is joined by Austin Smith, GM of, a startup which focuses on tech newsletters. produces the Inside Drones newsletter, a thoughtfully curated, twice-weekly digest of the most interesting drone news. Ian and Austin discuss how he started the company and chat about some of the latest drone news.

Oct 06, 2016
#016 - The DJI Mavic Pro: A Viable Commercial Drone Platform

DJI has announced their Mavic Pro drone, the smallest and most powerful drone they've ever created. The new Mavic Pro drone platform has specs and pricing that best the popular Phantom 4 and newly announced GoPro Karma which make it a promising candidate for commercial drone operations. Ian dissects the announcement, features, and viability of using the Mavic Pro for drone inspection and mapping missions.

Sep 27, 2016
#015 - GoPro vs. DJI: Who's Goliath?

Publicly traded GoPro have officially revealed the hotly anticipated Karma drone. Incidentally, this first effort into the industry directly competes with the largely dominant DJI, a private company, who happen to have a similar drone of their own which will be announced the following week. Ian analyzes GoPro's new drone and how this battle will shape up. Which of these companies will reign supreme in the battle for drone supremacy—who is David and who is Goliath?

Sep 21, 2016
#014 - A Bitcoin-based Drone Delivery Network and the Hover Drone App with Dan Held

There's a favorable exchange rate when transitioning from bitcoin to drones, according to Dan Held, the co-founder of Hover—a mobile app for drone pilots that enhances situational awareness. Ian speaks with Dan about why he chose to make a drone app, the latest drone news, and gets his mind blown after igniting an exciting discussion on how a future, autonomous, bitcoin-based drone delivery fleet and service network could actually work.

Sep 16, 2016
#013 - Making Maps with Drones: An Overview

Drone mapping can be a game changer for your business. Learn about why you should be making maps with drones and how to do it successfully. What kind of drone and software do I need? What does it cost? How do I make 3D models? Is it hard? These questions (and more) are answered in this initial episode about making maps with drones.

Sep 07, 2016
#012 - Fixed-Wing, BVLOS Drones for Industry with Benjamin Benharrosh

Co-founder Benjamin Benharrosh, lets us in on the evolution of Delair-Tech—the first company in the world to achieve BVLOS certification for their fixed-wing drones. Since starting in 2011, the French company has been involved with railroad and utility companies, SATCOM and 4G LTE radio links, and most recently, opened an office in the United States.

Aug 31, 2016
#011 - Drone Remote Sensing for Crop Insurance with Cassidy Rankine

Drones are becoming popular among farmers for analyzing crop health. Cassidy Rankine, PhD and co-founder of Skymatics, proposes another scenario: using drones for crop insurance. Ian and Cassidy discuss this innovative method and even offer a way for you to become one of Skymatics' drone pilots.

Aug 24, 2016
#010 - Constructing a National Drone Operator Network with Andrew Dennison

Andrew Dennison, COO of LIFT Technologies, recounts his journey into the drone industry. Ian and Andrew cover topics from real-world construction and insurance case studies, the drone deliverables that enterprise clients expect, not flying drones during wildfires, and building out a national drone operator network.

Aug 19, 2016
#009 - Solving the Automated Drone Workflow Challenge with Lucas Van Oostrum

Lucas Van Oostrum is co-founder of Delft Aerial Robotics as well as Aerialtronics. The Flying Dutchman joins Ian and tells entrepreneurial tales of starting up a high-end drone manufacturing company in Holland in 2011 and how we'll eventually move towards full drone automation in the near future.

Aug 11, 2016
#008 - Drones for Whale Snot, Education, and... Women? with Sally French, The Drone Girl

Sally French (aka The Drone Girl) sits down with Ian to discuss important issues in the drone industry. From teaching how to use drones in schools, whale snot, drone industry projections, and the unfortunate lack of females in the industry, Sally sets the record straight—drones, like women, are here to stay.

Aug 02, 2016
#007 - Dissecting Drone Industry News with Ben Popper of The Verge

For The Verge, Ben Popper has reviewed every one of the most important drones of the past few years. Ian and Ben dissect the latest news from the drone industry including 3DR's layoffs, DJI's dominance, the promise of Yuneec, Xiaomi's new drone, GoPro's moonshot, and the FAA's Part 107 rule.

Jul 28, 2016
#006 - FAA Part 107 Test Prep and Study Guide for Drone Pilots

Test prep and study guide for the FAA's Part 107 knowledge test for commercial drone pilots. Ian reviews the entire 35 questions—and answers—that he was administered during the online test (for Part 61 certificated pilots) for the upcoming commercial drone regulations that will be in place on August 26th, 2016. Be advised: the test for non-pilots will have 60 questions, this is not the full question bank for that test! Check the Commercial Drones FM website for more information and links.

Jul 24, 2016
#005 - Making Drone Software with Nicholas Pilkington

Ian is joined by DroneDeploy's CTO, Nicholas Pilkington, who guides listeners down the rabbit hole of aerial ones and zeroes; revealing secrets from the extremely important—yet unfortunately mysterious—realm of drone software programming.

Jul 20, 2016
#004 - Solar Powered Drones & Esri GIS with Devon Humphrey

Ian chats with Devon Humphrey, CEO of Flightline Geographics out of Austin, at the 2016 Esri User Conference in San Diego to cover the announcement of the new AeroHawk solar powered drone and discuss GIS, Esri, and how it's all connected in the drone indu

Jul 14, 2016
#003 - How To Get a FAA 'Get Out of Jail Free' Card

Attention commercial drone pilots: learn from Ian how to get access to a little-known FAA program which essentially grants you a "Get Out of Jail Free" card that can be used to help you get out of trouble when operating your drone commercially. Please fly your drones safely.

Jul 10, 2016
#002 - Drone Venture Capital with Kevin Spain

Ian sits down with Kevin Spain of Emergence Capital where they chat about venture capital trends in the drone space, the future of the commercial drone industry, and tips on what venture capitalists really look for in future (drone) portfolio companies.

Jul 06, 2016
#001 - The First Episode

This is the first episode of CommercialDrones.FM - Learn about the host, Ian Smith, his experience with drones, helicopters, aviation, and the plans for the show moving forward. The Commercial Drones Podcast will interview industry experts and explore concepts from the commercial drone industry.

Jun 21, 2016