Brandon Torres Declet first made an impact on the drone industry as the entrepreneur behind Measure, a drone services and aerial intelligence company founded in 2014. Under his leadership, Measure grew to be included in the top 5% of drone firms in the industry by revenue. In 2019, Aerodyne acquired the drone inspection services arm of Measure: in 2021, publicly-traded AgEagle acquired Measure’s drone platform, and Torres Declet was named AgEagle CEO. After almost 8 years in the drone space, Torres Declet has a unique perspective on the growth of the industry, and what it takes to get enterprise customers to buy into drone tech.
“It’s been quite the ride,” says Torres Declet. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of excitement about the technology, and a lot of hype about the technology. My goal has always been to actually do it – to really deploy the technology at scale. Now, people have really caught up,” he says. “It’s one thing to be excited about the technology and another thing to actually be able to show what you can do.”
Seeing drone technology at work is a focus for Torres Declet: talking to customers and understanding the work. “One of my favorite stories is of being out working on inspections at a wind turbine farm in Waco, TX, in 110 degree weather. Seeing a drone at work, in the fields, is very different than seeing the technology on the tradeshow floor.”
That commitment to understanding how drones are being used in the field informs AgEagle’s strategy: offering a complete solution flexible enough to work in a wide variety of industries and applications and to integrate smoothly into existing workflows.
The Flexible Full-Stack Solution
“Our customers are really looking for the full-stack solution – buying things in pieces its hard to make a successful drone program,” says Torres Declet.
That said, Torres Declet sees flexibility as key to scaling the business and covering a wide variety of industries. “Software is at the core of making the tech valuable because that’s how you make use of the data,” says Torres Declet. “There are other companies trying to do full stack: but our perspective at AgEagle is that we need to be flexible.”
In addition to the agriculture sector AgEagle began with, the company offers solutions in inspections, drone delivery, security, and more – verticals that may have different requirements for aircraft, sensors, or software.
“We’ve already brought together two great companies: Measure and MicaSense. Sensors and software are very important. For AgEagle moving forward, you’re going to see more capability, an intuitive and easy to use platform that puts design at the forefront, and you’re going to see more integrations: integrations like SAP and ERP systems, Pix4D, and more.”
“At AgEagle we’re going for a lot of different verticals, and you need to have enough flexibility in your stack to be able to give customers what they’re really looking for. If you are totally tied in to only one airframe or only one software stack, that’s a very narrow lane to stay in.”
“The phrase ‘horizontal integration’ accurately reflects what we’re trying to do. Our software platform is everything from fleet management to data processing. We’ve decided to go more horizontal rather than niche: ultimately drone tech is cutting across multiple verticals and multiple applications.”
“At the end of the day, people are looking for something very specific. You need to talk to people and figure out exactly what they’re looking for… For us at AgEagle, the future is going to be being flexible.”
The Key to Adding Value to Drone Programs
Torres Declet says that drone technology is becoming more valuable to enterprise customers, as customers and providers figure out how better to integrate drones into existing workflows. “The technology has gotten better: gut at the end of the day, it’s a flying camera,” he says. “But now, customers have figured out how to derive value from the tech and make it fit into the processes that they already have.”
“Customers already have an existing process, and we don’t want to tell them that they need a whole new process. They already have a way of understanding their assets – we’re just offering them a tool to do that better. We are layering in to an existing process.”
“If we as an industry think more about how to deploy the tech, we’re going to be more successful,” says Torres Declet. “Helping customers to understand the value of drone tech within their own processes has gotten us to a point where we feel like we’re progressing.”
Are Regulations Holding Back the Drone Industry?
Not really, says Torres Declet. He started Measure well before Part 107, when each commercial use of drones required an exemption to Section 333. “You’ve got to be able to demonstrate the efficacy of the tech and make money in any regulatory environment,” he says.
While participating in regulation development, Torres Declet sees no reason for the drone industry or their customers to wait for drone integration. “There is plenty that we can do today, and it’s encumbent upon companies like AgEagle to tell customers that we can provide value today.”
“I don’t get what people are waiting for,” he says. “There is no magic wand. You have to understand the regulations and work with them, demonstrate value and make money in any regulatory environment.”
That entrepreneurial attitude is part of the AgEagle CEO’s makeup – but Torres Declet says that running a large publicly-traded company has it’s advantages over building a startup.
“Being at the head of a publicly traded company is quite a bit different than running a private one,” he says. “The resources that we can bring to bear for our customers is exciting: the research and development that we can do, the new sensors that we’re going to deliver, the new integrations that make it easy for our customers to really do something with our data.”
“It’s fundamentally a different game from a resource perspective. It’s really fun.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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