Building Copterlist. My new sideproject to help you find cool drones

www.copterlist.com

After building and selling a couple of projects last year, I needed something new to sync my teeth into. So this has been ongoing since Jan.

Copterlist is a completely custom tool that shows you the top drones on the market, lets you filter by things like price, type, brand, weight, speed and even if it has an app. It haves some cool features like a wishlist and price tracker and many more nice to haves in the works.

Basically, I wanted to buy a drone for someone and realised there are literally hundreds on the market now. That makes it hard to find the right one as a gift or to keep track of the latest. I knew there had to be a better way and I think the consumer drone space is only just starting to heat up.

Almost everyone I know has bought a small hobby/toy drone for themselves or a gift. And it’s telling that people with no photography experience don’t hesitate to spend $$$ on flying photography drones.

Side note: I’ve built this while working full-time and travelling (currently in Da Nang).

Data Collection

I knew this would be the most tedious process that would put me off. And since my time was limited I hired someone on Upwork.

I created a google sheet with the headers for data I wanted and gave them some guidelines on what I was looking for. Total cost was about $100 for most of the inital data (~100 drones).

Lessons learned : define your expectations clearly, thoroughly check your results, make sure the data is easy to work with. More data = more work and can dirty up the data that’s actually important.

I’ve had to clean a lot of it up and continue to do so. But it helped fill out the site initially.

Initial Build

I had to fly return from Australia > Canada for work in February…twice.

For me, these long flights are perfect for side projects because you have no internet connection. It’s a real test of programming skills and creativity since you focus on GSD with no outside distractions. If I see a new website I like I’ll want to change the design to match which I can ‘t do on a flight.

After these initial flights I had a basic version built up with basic filtering, data referencing and generic design.

Refining

It’s easy to buid a proof of concept. But refining it into a product is hard. I started ot get lost in scope and design creep. So decided to create some trello boards where I could keep track of what needed to be done vs nice to haves.

What my development trello board looks like

I also started to set some timelines. I’m living in Vietnam for 6 weeks before going to Thailand this week and wanted to have it launched before then.

I wanted to have the filtering mostly done which is the core feature of the site, make sure it’s easy to use and build in some sticky features like wishlist and price updates that means people have a reason to come back or stay in touch.

Monetisation

Initially, Amazon affiliates. Eventually, I will link to individual drone resources and I’d like to start have the data more crowd sourced. Potentially leading to a nomad list style memberlist site.

The space still seems fairly open for a good Amazon driven drone resource. But I’m more interested in building a good tool and strong community first to see where that leads.

Overall Tech Stack

The site was all built from the ground up. Which took longer. But I prefer this approach for side projects. Since you only spend a few hours a day on it, it means the time spent doubles as time spent upskilling.

Basic tech things used is:

  • Node.js with Express for Server
  • Hosted on Heroku
  • MongDB for database
  • Mailchimp for newsletter updates. Using the API for more dynamic list subscribing
  • Amazon API to make sure prices are up to date

Things I need to work on

  • mobile layout sucks (fixing this week)
  • advanced filtering — requires cleaning data a bit better
  • layout on secondary pages
  • Add more drones!!

Next Steps

  • Initial marketing and reach out
  • Add more drones
  • Better process for editing data
  • (maybe) introduce community aspect including community driven data
  • User reviews and classifying (how easy is this drone to fly? Would you buy this as a gift?)
  • Building out more dynamic pages. Ie see a list of other drones in that price/speed/weight range, generate dynamic pages that compare drone brands
  • List drone resources (if you have a site/guide let me know!)

Thanks for reading! If you have thoughts or feedback I’d love to hear! And any questions happy to answer.