I recently got wind of Inspired Flight, a drone company based in San Louis Obispo, California, through one of the many professional drone pilot groups I belong to on Facebook. Ever interested in new companies in this fascinating space, I had to do what bloggers do and reach out to them to get the inside scoop.
If you’re not familiar with commercial-grade drones versus those you can grab at the hobby shop, the delta generally comes down to build quality, sophistication of components, variety of payloads that can be supported, and yes- cost. beyond the hobby space, drones are tools. They are analytics platforms. They are the building blocks of careers and success stories in a variety of realms from agriculture to videography to military operations.
Back to Inspired Flight. One look at their latest IF750A drone, and it’s obvious that the company is serious about their commercial offerings.
There’s a lot there to appreciate, and I got a good overview from Adam Bilmes, Inspired Flight’s Marketing Program Director. I hit Adam with my questions that come from the perspective of an FAA-certificated (yes that’s the word for it) Remote Pilot, but also one interested in seeing domestic drone companies gain share in a market dominated by foreign platforms. I hope to one day take an Inspired Flight bird for a spin, but meanwhile it’s exciting just to learn more about the company.
Here’s the discussion:
As a company, what should people know and appreciate about Inspired Flight?
Inspired Flight is a San Luis Obispo, California based company that develops and produces various modular commercial quadcopter platforms. We take pride in being able to offer an American-made system at a price significantly lower and higher quality than that of overseas competitors. People should know that our mission is to provide safe, cost-effective, and reliable solutions for the endless applications that drones can provide for businesses and consumers.
Your gear looks beautiful, definite eye candy that’s easy to appreciate. Beyond the really slick appearance, what can you tell me about the IF750A’s performance specs and payload options?
The IF750 & IF750A platform was designed to be extremely modular and customizable. Payload options are easily swappable through our mounting system and the drone can carry a payload up to 2.5 kg (5.5 lb). A user can easily go from a professional DSLR camera being used for photogrammetry, to a LIDAR system being used to take 3D maps, to a thermal camera being used to monitor wildfires. This level of modularity and amount of payload options isn’t available in any other enterprise level drone. The IF750A has: an Intel Nuc running 4 Intel RealSense cameras for obstacle avoidance; Trimble RTK for extremely stable flight, geotagging of data and images, and position hold within 1 cm; full SDK integration with Sony cameras; a ballistic parachute recovery system; Auterion’s enterprise support system. [These specs are BEEFY -Lee]
The IF750A was fully designed with the end user in mind. That is why our platform has a virtually unlimited amount of payload options that a user can use for their particular need. We guarantee an optimal user experience right out of the box and a drone that will get whatever is required of it done.
What are key product differentiators that perspective buyers should really consider about Inspired Flight?
One of the biggest differentiators of Inspired Flight’s products that buyers should consider is that we are an American company through and through. The large majority of our parts are made in America and everything is designed and tested by us in San Luis Obispo, California. Besides that, they should know that there isn’t another commercial drone platform currently on the market with the level of modularity, programmability, and customizability as the ones offered by Inspired Flight.
What is Inspired Flight’s support model?
Our support model is something very important to us as we each have experienced the pains of having something go wrong with a drone and not being able to receive proper help from the manufacturer. We offer two levels of support, basic and advanced. Our basic support model includes a 90-day warranty on everything we sell with the ability to extend that to a full year simply by registering your purchase through us. If anything were to go wrong with your drone we will get you on the phone with our engineering team so that we can help you get your drone back in the air as soon as possible.
Our advanced support model works at an autonomous level with the drone itself. We integrated many diagnostic capabilities into the IF750A and with advanced support we can alert the user if anything was detected to be going wrong within the drone. For example, if the drone starts to develop an abnormal vibration the aircraft can autonomously alert our support staff and send us a flight log, thereby allowing us to preemptively offer replacement parts and or service before it causes a larger failure. With this advanced support we also offer free propeller replacements if they were to break and free parachute re-packing in the event of an emergency deployment.
Do you tend to sell more kits or assembled aircraft? What options tend to be the most popular?
We sell more fully assembled IF700 quadcopter compared to unassembled kits. The IF700 comes with a Pelican drone case, Pixhawk 2.1 flight controller, ballistic parachute and a retractable landing gear.
Our most exciting option is the ballistic parachute system, which is designed to protect the drone and the camera against crashes. Our rail mount system underneath the drone allows for the swapping of gimbal plates, which gives the user flexibility of payloads. Our retractable landing gear is another awesome feature as it provides 360 degree viewing capability.
However, the IF750A is soon to be the pinnacle product of our company. The IF750A combines the latest sensors such as Intel’s RealSense for obstacle avoidance, Trimble for high-precision navigation, Sony for professional imaging, and Airmap software integration for UTM services. It supports numerous applications with open interfaces, and has cutting edge software technology for flight.
Who are Inspired Flight’s main customers? Any markets you’re not quite in yet that you want to enter?
Our main customers tend to be in the inspection, photography, and agriculture industries because our drones have the capability of switching between payloads to accommodate whatever application the user needs. A market that we are going after very aggressively right now is the security and defense industries as we see a lot of potential for our platform to be leveraged for those applications.
Our main markets are are in the advanced level imaging fields: professional aerial photography, surveying & mapping, security, and inspection. The IF750 is designed to carry a DSLR camera, Thermal Camera, full spectrum camera, and LIDAR; exploring more markets that utilize these technologies is our main priority right now. In the future we would like to go after heavier payloads like full cinema cameras, crop sprayers, and package delivery.
Finally- Any customer stories that you are particularly excited about?
One of our favorite current uses of our product is an educational curriculum a professor created around the IF700 at California University of Pennsylvania. The distinguished professor who teaches in the department of applied engineering and technology, created a course designed to introduce young engineers into the field of drones. By utilizing our unassembled IF700 kit, the students are able to receive a hands-on experience through building and understanding the components and technology necessary to get the quadcopters flying. The end result in being able to fly a drone that they personally put hours of effort into is a rewarding feeling for the students and is a great way to learn and have fun in the same process. Even if students suffer a crash, and specific components break on the drone, we are able to ship replacement parts the next day and get them back to flying as soon as possible. The modularity and payload capabilities are very important in a learning environment because it allows the students to be creative and think outside the box in terms of how they want to utilize the drones that they are responsible for creating.
Learn more at the company’s web site
And more about Auterion