Matthew Cua | CEO | SkyEye

Skyeye Inc. started as a small project in August 2009 when a group of multidisciplinary students taking their Masters and Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Engineering, Physics, Environmental Science, Computer Science and Management got together to explore the use of UAVs in the Philippines. Skyeye was born out of necessity, as satellite images were hard and expensive to procure.

Acquiring funds from colleagues and investors, the company has grown from a start-up of students who just wanted to take aerial pictures, to a company that has increased its capabilities tenfold. As a result, Skyeye can now efficiently produce aerial maps and digital surface models faster, easier, and cheaper than traditional methods.

SkyEye is also part of the UN COP (UN Community of Practice) and is asked to participate in disaster response efforts during times of local calamity. The images that we take give first respondents and rescue crews an overview of important information such as: which paths are accessible and safe to use, to people that are still stuck in the disaster zone.

Aside from this, SkyEye has also helped in documenting these zones-post disaster, and we produced maps that allowed the right parties to take preventive action, and are then better prepared for the future.

Here’s the interview with the CEO and Founder of SkyEye, Matthew Cua, a graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University and he took up climate change as his field of study specifically chemistry of the environment. Matthew is a young innovator who believes that creating sustainable technologies and business models is the key to progress. His background in both business management and science allows him a deeper understanding and a multi-perspective approach towards business process modeling and tech development.

Matthew thrives and enjoys in places where things are chaotic and where there are more unknowns than known variables. This is reflected in the different work he has taken up since then.

Sam: So what’s your career before SkyEye was born?
It started when I was as grad student although I was working for various technology start-ups and Social Enterprises.

Sam: Tell me a little about how SkyEye started?
It was created by the combination of various Master students wanting to complete their thesis in Ateneo de Manila University, thus SkyEye was born as a means to finish a thesis thus our email “skyeyeproject” as before it was just a project.

Sam: SkyEye is a brilliant and cool thing, how did you come up with this kind of idea?
We were trying to research climate change and drones became an integral part in that as it provided maps which isn’t available in the Philippines in a constantly updated manner.

Sam: What motivates you to build it? Your inspiration? 
Social Impact, we wanted to create technology that solves an important social need which currently is to build better , faster and cheaper.

Sam: Who is/are part of building SkyEye?
My core founders were a big portion of SkyEye’s early life and now it is the core non-founder member that is the driving force of SkyEye together with our advisers Mr. Arthur Tan, Atty Jose Bernas, Dr. Nat Libatique and Marissa Santos.

Sam: What was technically the most challenging part of developing SkyEye?
Acquiring resources to build drones and to replace destroyed drones has been the hardest part as we are bootstrapped.

Sam: How did you get the funding?
We had a small funding round with our angels but the rest are bootstrapped from client and grant work

Sam: Can you tell me a little bit about your equipments? Like the drone type, camera resolutions, are there any customizations you did with the drones?
We have more than 16 configurations of drones from quadcopters to fixed wing aircraft , our drones are constantly being tweaked to fly at a good cost ratio :D

Sam: How much is the most expensive drone you have right now? (just a price range)
Our most expensive drone is around 5k USD without labor

Sam: Can you tell us something about the biggest project/client you had?
We cannot, hahaha, our clients ask us to map land that they intend to develop.

Sam: Alright, we respect your privacy about that. But maybe like just a general info about how big is the land/coverage or how exciting it is to be a part of that project?
We were asked to map more than 10,000 hectares in a very tough terrain area where we have to hike and camp to fly our drones :D

Sam: Briefly, could you tell me a story about your first official aerial shoot?
We were hired by the World Food Programme to determine where to plant mangroves in Northern Luzon, an island in the Philippines where the capital is located.

Sam: How did it goes? I mean were you able to find the best spot for mangoves?
It was great, I’ll show the photo for that project.

Sam: What were the challenges you encountered?
We are a young team and there are many challenges we faced because we lacked experience especially in a business sense but now we have mentors who can help us manage it

Sam: What are your plans in the future for SkyEye? Do you vision to go worldwide?
We want to help make surveying accessible to the philippines and maybe in South East Asia :D

Sam: In one word, how would you describe SkyEye?

Sam: Do you have any message for aspiring startups?
Grit is more important than anything else

Sam: In one sentence, how would you market SkyEye?
We visualize property value using drones :D

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