The commercial application of drones is nascent enough that it still has its detractors, but lifelong fans of remote controlled aerial vehicles are starting new businesses every day that are forcing drones into the public eye. Take, for example, Dronefly.com CEO Taylor Chien, who has been flying since he was 10 years old.
Chien has always had a passion for RC helicopters and will not hesitate to point out that having such a hobby used to be considered “nerdy.” But, like superheroes and computer games, drones have gone from being a nerdy niche to a multi-billion dollar industry.
Chien’s brother first opened young Taylor’s eyes to the impact a drone could have in business when he began flying aerial photography units for a company called Coptervision, which shot movie footage for Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers.
At the time, Chien was heavily involved in filmmaking, both for movies and television. So, when Freefly Systems released their Cinestar 8 just a few short years later, Chien saw an opportunity. The Cinestar 8 was designed specifically with cinematography in mind, so Chien started CopterX, one of the first aerial photography companies to start filming for TV shows like FOX’s The X-Factor.
“When the first DJI Phantom was released,” Chien told DRONELIFE in an email, “I thought to myself ‘who would want this?’ But I soon realized that if DJI were to make a brushless gimbal for the GoPro that could attach to the Phantom, then they would have a hit.”
This lead Chien to his next business venture.
“Since I have always been fascinated with business and the wonderful world of commerce, I decided to start Dronefly.com. I mainly started it as a small side gig in which I hoped to sell one or two Phantoms a month… Another reason was to get DJI parts at a dealer cost for my S800.”
He was able to put everything else aside and focus on Dronefly. He brought his partner, Frank Tesoro, to serve as the company’s CFO and built Dronefly into DJI’s largest online distributor.
“It’s surprising how many great people there are that we get to sell to and also very surprising how many people will try to take advantage,” Chien said. “We get customers who have all sorts of different uses [for the drones]. From the average guy who just thinks its cool to the guys at NASA, GoPro, and even Apple. ”
As far as what’s next, Chien believes 2013 was the year that people changed their minds about drones and that “2014 is the year drones are taking off.” And, he suggests, in the not-so-distant future, drones “will have a larger impact on mankind than the automobile.” All that being said, he closely follows the FAA , as he is keenly aware that their leadership could influence his success.
In the meantime, the next step for Dronefly is establishing different departments to address the many applications and industries that will be empowered by the emergence of commercial drones.
Of course, there is still plenty of time for play; Chien is very engaged with the commercial drone community and promotes this emerging tech by producing inspiring and creative videos on his social media outlets.
We highly recommend checking out “Superman with a GoPro.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com