Dublin’s drone scene is booming. The Big Read, sponsored by Vodafone.
We are in exciting times for drones, or as they are known within the business, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or RPAS (Remotely piloted aircraft systems). This revolution is massively aided by the Statutory Instruments #563 issued last December by the Irish Aviation Authority, to guide the use of small unmanned aircraft (AKA drones). John Wright, chairman of the Unmanned Aircraft Association of Ireland, is emphatic that “Ireland is a green field for the drone industry, with a rich pool of talent, research centres and a progressive aviation regulator”.
Above: The Dublin Spire Sunrise, by Sky Pixels Ireland.
Tim McCarthy, leading Irish drone expert at Maynooth University (he’s also involved with Jay Bregman’s Verifly project – see below) is convinced of the great potential of drones for mapping, monitoring, news-gathering, entertainment, searching, tracking and transportation purposes: “We can expect to see an increasing array of both improved products and services as well as entirely new applications over coming years”.
At the most recent round of the NDRC liftoff competition, it was drone-based startup SkyTango that won the overall prize, receiving €30,000 of follow-on funding. They also won the Best Drone Startup award at the Drone-X competition in Westport last fall. The tech is still evolving, however, and caution is needed, as Oisin McGrath, Irish Aircorps, and chief flying instructor at iFlyTechnology cautions, “Drones are buggy, the tech is young, firmware updates keep coming out, it is constantly evolving. You, the user, are testing the products for many of the drone manufacturers.”
Limerick Dawn, by Skyscraper Arials
Dublin entrepreneurs have also identified numerous opportunities for drone usage. Mydrone.ie founder John Wright sees business opportunities in many sectors, including software development for automated flight control, data gathering, data processing, and data analytics, among others.
All of these resources make Ireland an attractive destination for foreign direct investment and enable domestic companies to grow beyond our shores. Hailo founder Jay Bregman chose Dublin to launch his latest venture Verifly, which aims to bring regulation to the world of drones. After raising an initial €2 million, Bregman remains dedicated in his desire to locate and grow his business from Dublin.
Damien Doyle, Copter Shop founder and DJI agent for Ireland, has seen a massive rise in demand for his drones over the last 18 months and believes this will only continue to grow. “Ireland will become the hub of the world for drone technology testing,” says Doyle, “and agencies like the IAA are working with companies to allow them test and expand. In 2014 the first ever Drone Expo, Drone Data X, was held in Ireland; it showed the Drone Industry that Ireland is open to new ideas and technology”.
It is an exciting time for drones in Ireland. Time in the air is increasing, and the quality of footage being captured is advancing rapidly. Many companies have chosen Dublin as their base to develop their operations; the community is still small, and as with the Dublin FinTech scene, a great atmosphere of support and encouragement exists for everyone working in the area. As iFlyTechnology’s Odhran Murphy puts it, “We don’t see other companies in Dublin as our competitors, we are all working to try and achieve global success. Locally, we help each other, it just makes sense to do so.”
John Wright, chairman of the Unmanned Aircraft Association of Ireland summed up the state of the Irish drone scene poetically: “The Bronze Age is over, and we have entered our Model-T phase”.
Drone companies to watch out for:
SkyScraper Aerials: Dublin-based creators of drone footage for RTE’s 1916 Rising project
Verifly: Hailo founder Jay Bregman’s latest drone focus venture, based in Dublin
SkyTango: Marketplace for drone operations
iFlyTechnology: Training the current and future generation of Irish drone pilots
Mydrone.ie: Drone services for hire
The Copter Shop: Official DJI drone dealership for Leinster
Leinster FPV: First person view drone racing for Leinster
Many of these companies and other key drone innovators will be attending the Drone Expo Ireland, at the RDS from April 1 – 3.