A five minute Q&A session between Toni Lawton from Sunderland University and Dan Maine director of DJM Aerial Solutions, showcasing the background of the North East Drone company and experience of its employees within industry.
Author: DJM Aerial Solutions was formed off the back of the recent slump in the oil & gas industry. The owner formed the company based on predictions and estimations that failure of the volatile Deep Water market which he was directly involved in was eminent and the uncertainty of continued employment was beginning to cause disruption.
Author: Hi Dan, can you give us a quick explanation of your background?
Dan Maine: Hi, I have worked within heavy industry all my working life, predominately engineering roles. The career path I chose has had me see a large portion of the world, traveling extensively to different continents and spending huge amounts of time away from family and friends. I have unfortunately missed a colossal percentage of my children’s lives, but have also had the opportunity to spend quality time with them whilst being home. It was enjoyable and exciting in the beginning but towards the end became mundane and miserable for all of us, probably due to the downturn in the market and the pressure of losing jobs at the drop of a hat.
Author: What are you able to bring to the north east drone inspection and survey market that others can’t?
Dan Maine: Due to my experience within heavy industry we are fully site aware. I personally have worked extensively on most variations of site so we are more than familiar with all terminology, safety standards, rules and regulations and are able to offer our own set of site related safety tools. We understand the hazards that are directly associated with all live sites and are more than capable of adhering to the strict rules and regulations without question. Other than that I have an extensive background in engineering and maintenance which gives me personally the leading edge on the competition. All of my working life I have carried out inspection on a variety of assets so I am tuned into how things should and shouldn’t be. My report writing skills and terminology are also honed in reference to survey and inspection, allowing us to offer the whole package.
Author: Sounds like you have the upper hand… What are your weaknesses, if any?
Dan Maine: Unfortunately, I’m also a perfectionist and in the real world situations are very often not as crystal clear as we like, which can lead to irritating very minor problems. For 99.9% of the population these won’t have any effect on a project but for myself it drives me mad. So I could end up spending longer than anticipated on a project due to my own excessively high standards.
Author: Some might say that is a strength opposed to a weakness….
Dan Maine: Yes I suppose it could be taken either way.
Author: How did you go about starting within the drone industry?
Dan Maine: 10 year ago I purchased my first DSLR camera, although I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures. A few years after that, I was in Jessops looking to buy a new telephoto lens to take with me on a holiday to Thailand, I walked out with the lens and a Phantom 3 drone. It was an expensive day out.
Author: Why did you decide to start a business using inspection drones?
Dan Maine: I initially bought the P3 as a hobby to add a different perspective to my personal portfolio. A while after buying it, I had an issue at home with a water leak coming in from the chimney breast at the top of our home. So I sent the drone up to see if there was anything obvious and found that the lead flashing around the chimney was in bad condition and the pointing around the actual stack was in poor state. It was light bulb moment.
Author: There is a great deal of bad press at the minute referencing drones and irresponsible people, how do you prevent the uneducated minority using drones and putting people at risk?
Dan Maine: I think the only clear cut answer is education and training on mass. I know that a few companies are now integrating training and education at secondary school level which is a fantastic idea, as it is the next generation that are really going to develop the unmanned air system industry to another level. These students are then able to go back home and educate their older siblings etc on how to use their equipment without breaking the law. There is obviously the other option of heavily regulating the consumer drone market.
Author: Why only the consumer drone market?
Dan Maine: At the minute anybody can buy a drone at consumer level but what they don’t realise is that one of these drones can easily take down a full-size aircraft if operated irresponsibly or has the potential to cause serious injury or death if they lose control and it collides with a vehicle. They also have the potential to cause massive financial implications within the industry if operated incorrectly.
People that but inspection drones outside of the consumer market are generally trained, most enterprise dealerships will request to see the customers PfCO prior to selling to them.
Dan Maine: Permission for Commercial Operations, a legal document that is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority giving the operator full permission to operate on a commercial level. A commercial drone pilot must be trained to a standard recognised by the CAA, prove that they are capable of recovering the UAV if command from the RC is lost, provide proof of operation via an in-depth operations manual, which must be strictly adhered to and show competence in all theoretical eventualities.
Author: Sounds like a lot of work
Dan Maine: That is just a small portion of what is required.
Author: Would you recommend this inspection drone industry to others?.
Dan Maine: Yes it is extremely rewarding with a great following, it has colossal potential for the future with an estimated $120 billion dollar market value in the next few years. Our children are definitely going to be using drones as transport. The scope and the speed that the industry is growing is huge and I personally feel privileged to be in it at the beginning.
Author: Would you bring any of your family into the business or do you want to keep it separate?
Dan Maine: I’ve currently got my partner Sarah onboard and my step-son Lewis, both in very different roles.
Author: Can you tell us a little about each of them.
Dan Maine: Sarah is our General Manager and takes care of all of the secretarial side of the business when I’m unavailable, She is a medical professional with 10 years in the genetical research industry for the NHS.
Lewis is our observer and payload operator, as well as being a keen photographer himself he is also studying electrical engineering and A level in maths at college. He left secondary school with nine A* grades, he has a great understanding of technology and is very keen to learn the inspection drone market.
I am in the process of putting them both through ground school which gives them the opportunity to understand the rules and regulations and what is required if a client ever asks them to jump through hoops.
Author: Ok Dan, thanks for your time. I think you’ve given us a full explanation on capabilities within this exciting market.
Dan Maine: You’re welcome, thanks for showing your interest.