Matthew Greaves, founder of Drones on Demand
Matthew Greaves, founder of Drones on Demand, tells BQ what inspired him to launch the drone enabled survey and inspection business.
Tell us about Drones on Demand – what does the company do?
Drones on Demand collects data for clients using drones to get cameras and other sensors to places that are difficult, dangerous or expensive to reach. We can then turn this data into maps and 3D models for our clients to use, or hand over the raw data for further analysis.
This could be a scan of a construction site, a record of an archeologically significant site or even detailed pictures of the condition of an electricity pylon. We are experts in flying drones, capturing and processing data and hold what’s called a Permit for Commercial Operation, granted by the Civil Aviation Authority that allows us to fly the drones commercially.
We also provide consultancy on how organisations could use drones to help them save time, money and reduce the risk of some of their operations, for example where they have people working at height purely to complete visual inspections.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We use flying cameras to create detailed pictures, videos and maps of all sorts of things for our clients.
What did you do before you started this business?
I’ve spent the last 15 years delivering IT projects – leading teams that essentially plug complex bits of software and hardware together to deliver benefit to customers. I’ve worked for Halifax, Boots, The Cooperative and N Brown Group, amongst others.
What inspired you to start up?
I’m a volunteer Mountain Rescuer with Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team (CVSRT). Whilst on a search for a missing person we were being supported from the air by the Police helicopter; this got re-tasked and it got me thinking that it would be great if we had our own.
It was at a time about six years ago when drones were just staring to appear in the press and on the news and I got thinking about whether it would be possible to get a camera on a drone that we could direct where we wanted to help out with searches.
You could, but it would have cost about £80,000 and could only stay in the air for 10 minutes so I quickly forgot about it – but then I got thinking that there may be some commercial applications for drones; there are, and I developed the idea from then.
I still volunteer for CVSRT and am working with a small group to develop procedures for how we will use drones in Mountain Rescue to save lives.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
The drone service industry is still a very new industry working with new technology. There aren’t that many of us out there but the community is usually keen to help each other out by sharing knowledge. The professional body for commercial drone operators, ARPAS, and their members are very supportive and offer help and advice.
I was also part of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme, a business incubator, which has now been taken over by Natwest; this helped me meet other entrepreneurs and also offers some great coaching and mentor opportunities.
I have a very supportive wife, who has been a great source of encouragement and support while getting the business off the ground.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
I was fortunate in that I had sufficient seed funding from my career in IT to not need any funding for the first 12 months. The British Enterprise Fund helped me to raise a small amount of working capital.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Drones on Demand prides itself on being a professional and safe operator that delivers quality and accurate data to clients.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It took me a while to adjust from being a boss to being THE boss. I love that I can make decisions quickly and define the company strategy. It’s sometimes a little daunting, but having a trusted support and advice network to discuss problems with is invaluable
Where do you see your business in five years time?
I believe that the drone sector is going to continue to grow and am positioning Drones on Demand to be one of the major ‘drone service providers’.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you can afford to follow your dreams, do it – if you don’t, you’ll never know how great your idea is.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement