DroneRules.eu is focused on assisting professional and recreational users in flying safely, responsibly, and compliant with privacy and data protection regulations. To better understand the current situation of the drone industry and learn more about the active participants of the market, following is our interview with a Munich-based drone company called FairFleet which provides full-stack drone services around the world. The firm was represented by Dario Manns - Chief Innovation Officer, Pilot-in-Residence, and one of the co-founders.
Please, tell us about your background.
Throughout my life, I was particularly excited about two things: aviation and cameras. I first started flying glider planes at the age of thirteen and also really enjoyed building small scale model planes. Not long after, I fell in love with paragliding too. Additionally, I had a strong passion for the video industry, so much so that I went on to study film and television in Munich. With this combination of curiosity for flying and filming, I started flying drones before they were even called drones! And then eventually, ten years ago, I entered the professional drone sector.
It is very interesting to see how your passion for drones can be traced back so far into your past! But what encouraged you to start a drone business?
FairFleet was based on a business plan a fellow student Raffael and I wrote at Uni back in 2013. At first, it ended up in a drawer, since after my graduation, I decided to leave Germany for a while and go fly drones around the world. Over time, however, the drone market started undergoing significant changes, it began shaping up and maturing. By this, I mean things like the introduction of extensive regulations as well as the appearance of affordable drones worldwide. These developments encouraged me to find business-savvy co-founders – Marco and Alex – and join the Allianz X Incubator. There we got great support from the entire incubator team, met our last co-founder Florian, iterated on the business plan, and eventually started the company.
It has been a while since the birth of Fairfleet, and now the company provides services to various industries, including real estate, agriculture, inspection of buildings, etc. How do you address the safety aspect regarding the use of drones?
Different industries require different safety precautions. Therefore, we thoroughly check pilots for necessary qualifications and provide badges for achieved safety certifications. By filtering pilots based on these badges, we make sure they only fly missions they are qualified for. We also require our pilots to have all legally needed certifications, such as the Drohnen-Führerschein. Additionally, we provide pre-flight checklists and guidelines for safe in-flight procedures as well as ask our pilots to fulfil certain post-flight duties. All of the above combined ensures safe drone operations every day.
It is great to hear that you take the matter of safety seriously! Do you also organise training sessions for your personnel?
As a company, we do not provide on-site face-to-face safety training. Instead, we partner with flight schools who are focused on this part of the drone ecosystem and have the infrastructure to do so. Our core competence is providing scalable solutions to clients who need drone services - based on technology, IT infrastructure, and our pilot network. Nonetheless, we ask our pilots to join safety training sessions regularly. Especially as safety is paramount for drone operations.
Privacy is also an important aspect, especially when working in residential areas. How do you address this issue?
We could not agree more! This is why we supply our pilots with self-study material and checklists for privacy quality control. On top of that, we have a workflow in place to anonymise data to the level needed before it is being published.
Would an external training, for example, the DroneRules PRO e-learning course with a gamified element that we are creating, be useful for you?
A gamified online training sounds like a great value-adding feature. We are keen to learn more about it.
Continuing the privacy topic, how did the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force affect your business? Did you do any preparations for this regulation coming into force last year?
Yes, without a doubt, GDPR did noticeably affect our business. To handle the challenges of the transition and to have all the needed measures in place in time, we contracted specialised professionals with extensive experience in this area. Moreover, even at the current stage, we have recurring audits and monitor regulatory changes to stay compliant.
Have you used our website DroneRules.eu before? What do you think about this effort of having one-stop-shop for all drone regulations?
DroneRules is a great resource, and we regularly make use of it. I can see the difficulty of keeping all the information on the website up to date and, therefore, really appreciate your effort!
Any words of advice for drone pilots who want to create a professional practice using drones?
Keep it simple. Identify needs you can solve without too much of a stretch. Stay curious though!
You can learn more about Fairfleet on their website.
Click here to check out all the resources that DroneRules.eu provides to professional drone users.