From Solar House to Drones


When you run a startup, people will constantly ask, “What makes you different?”— in an attempt to figure out why we have been deemed the “chosen ones” or “What makes her qualified to be a drone company’s CEO?”

When I tell people about my background and that I transitioned from building solar-powered smart home, the typical response is a confused grimace.

Solar house and drones just don’t sound that aligned…..

Well, actually 1) we are not just a drone company; 2) my solar house experience is the unique secret sauce for what we do in drones.

So what do drone solution creation and solar house building have in common? The development process.

Humans have been doing architecture and engineering for a long time. However, it is in recent decades, that development process has been totally disrupted by digital tools such as CAD (Computer Aided Design) and BIM (Building Information Management). It fundamentally changed the way design and construction professionals work. Visualization allowed deeper understanding of systems. Tremendous amount of coordination-related costs are eliminated by simulating in virtual before the physical product is built.

That design and development method is totally missing in the current way of drone solution creation. For developers building drone applications, the process always starts from hardware. And that is wrong. Just like you don’t start building a house nowadays without a whole house design in software.

Imagine project engineer Bobby, who is tasked to build an enterprise drone solution that consists of multi-drone fleet that communicates internally and interacts with other IoT devices real-time — where does he start?

His journey would be that 1) he goes out and buys an off-the-shelf drone; then, he would find out that these drones have limitations in development capability; even if he gets through the hurdle of engineering, the business is now tied to a single vendor solution 2) he is technical, so he can build some drone hardware himself. But then he’d spend months in hardware R&D rather than focusing on what he supposed be doing — building the operational application layer.

So Dronesmith says — what if hardware weren’t Bobby’s starting point. What if Bobby starts in a simulated environment, and he can “create,”“call,” “control” all hardware platforms, sensors, other software infrastructure and services in a digitized fashion. Bobby can present his wonderful drone operations project to his manager before high capital investment in hardware. Just like how a modern architect would present his/her “vision” in a digital format.

We believe by reinventing the process, and making it software first development approach for drones will totally change developers’ experience. Although the end product might be the same, but our human-centric rather than product-centric approach will create another dimension of love for our future.

Dronesmith is not just about the drone, it’s about the smith.

In 2014, when Greg and I had the vague idea of establishing a company, we picked drone as the theme, but our DNA is really in freedom. Ever since then, our core has always been how to enable the people who make.

For the past three years, we keep pivoting, creating products that range from a comprehensive drone platform for researchers, to an educational drone for kids, to an IoT-enabled flight controller, and finally, to a software API (Application Programmable Interface) toolsets for drones. People have joked that Greg and I have ADHD — shifting too quickly from one idea to the next, the truth is — we have been in search of the perfect development experience that maximizes productivity, profit, and human happiness unconsciously, and went through iterations of experimentation and design thinking .

Ultimately, drones are just edge devices of our upcoming interactive cyber-physical world. Automated machines will always be evolving to improve business processes; what will persist until the end of time, however, is the developer’s power and will to unlock the value of creation.

2014, Jinger, Bum, Quark Senior, and Greg. The early drone days, “Greg made 4 rings fly”.