Ever wonder how we’re going to train all of the new UAV pilots?
Abby Speicher is the CEO and Co-Founder of DART Drones, a flight school for drone pilots. DART Drones is the national leader in drone training, consultation, and expert support for new drone pilots. Their mission is to provide the highest quality training on Unmanned Aerial Systems to ensure the safe integration of drones into the national airspace. In this show, Abby talks about how she started Dart Drones, the courses offered and how the company is preparing this generation’s UAV pilots for the commercial drone industry.
In This Episode
Introduction. Abby Speicher is C.E.O. and co-founder of DART drones, a national flight school for drone pilots. The origin of the company goes back to 2014, when she entered a business plan contest at Babson College and winning some seed money to refine the plan and launch the company. Abby had already been a successful entrepreneur, having started another company prior to DART Drones.
Courses. DART Drones offers both online and in-person training. Online courses include Introductory to Drones, Part 107 prep, Aerial Photography and Starting a Drone Based Business. In person classes include hands on flight training and Part 107 prep classes. For Part 107 students, the courses include more than 300 test questions for students to practice before taking the exam. DART Drones has also started mission specific training for corporate clients and for government agencies. They’ve already started doing thermal imaging and telemetry training for some clients. Most of DART Drones’ clients are commercial users. The company started off focusing on recreational users until Part 107 was announced, at which time, the number of commercial users increased.
What Distinguishes DART Drones. DART Drones takes the uncertainty and time out of searching for the proper UAV training. The company has a team of professional pilots who understand aviation and helping people learn to fly. DART Drones also launched a consulting service help a company or an organization that wants to create a drone program, specialized manuals or procedures. The company focuses primarily on DJI products. DART Drones instructors are set in forty-five different cities, and they can rent locations depending on the client to provide private lessons if desired.
Challenges. Abby describes the greatest challenge in starting DART Drones was building the team. During the initial start-up phase, many of the employees were interns, which eventually finished their degrees and moved onto other jobs. Once DART Drones was able to move beyond interns and attract top talent, things really began to grow. Responding to the changes in the drone industry has also been a challenge, as DART Drones staff has had to stay abreast of regulatory changes, Part 107 requirements and the economic opportunities of the drone industry. A third challenge was preparing for the expected growth as Part 107 was implemented and organizations began developing drone programs.
Impact of Part 107. Once Part 107 went into effect, DART Drones saw in surge in enrollments, especially from commercial operators. There may still be much more growth ahead, as many organizations (particularly government agencies) are still formulating a program and creating budgets. DART Drones has a 99% pass rate for operators taking the Part 107 Certification test after completing one of their prep classes.
Abby’s Passion For DART Drones. Abby talks about what drives her passion for DART Drones. Since this is her second business, she’s excited to prove that she is a true entrepreneur. She also is committed to delivering a really great product in a really great company with a great team. She loves solving different problems and is having fun every day.
Lessons Learned. Abby talks about some of the lessons learned from her previous company and from DART Drones. Abby has learned that she excels in operations and processes. She’s learned the value of not allowing perfectionism to get in the way of moving forward. You’ll never get everything figured out, so you just have to put your head down and keep working at it. Listening to clients and developing course offerings that will address their needs is a critical lesson learned.
Why Users Should Consider DART Drones. Abby doesn’t want to teach operators how to learn just to fly a drone, because in reality, they could figure it out on their own. Through DART Drones, she wants to teach operators how to be professionals and to know how to fly in any situation (including emergencies). DART Drones is focused on giving operators a comprehensive understanding so that they’ll feel confident. Other classes are geared to teach operators how to start and run their own drone based business, giving them a comprehensive view on what they need to know and consider in starting a business. In-person classes provide a combination of lecture and on-site flying. DART Drone instructors have trained more than 4,000 people to date.
Closing. Abby hopes people that take a Dart Drones class will walk away with a real respect for aviation and for the drones they are flying. She also hopes people will understand how important it is to be safe and confident in what they’re doing.