H3 Dynamics is a Singapore-based drone company that has been receiving a fair amount of attention for its DRONEBOX technology — an autonomously operated drone programme.
Dubbed the ‘Internet of Drones’, the company pitches DRONEBOX as an all-inclusive self-powered system that — because it is designed to be deployed anywhere at anytime — can gather data from areas difficult for humans to reach.
e27 spoke with H3 Dynamics Founder and CEO Taras Wankewycz to hear his thoughts about running a hardware company, the role of government in entrepreneurship and how DRONEBOX unlocks an array of possibilities.
Can you dive into some of the challenges faced when deploying large-scale enterprise-level drone systems in a small nation like Singapore. I am thinking in terms of security, regulations, etcetera.
It is not easy nor always feasible to deploy drones in highly urbanised environments such as Singapore. With five airports on its territory, Singapore is a no-fly zone for UAVs on the majority of its land space.
Safety and regulations are critical considerations for end-users, and some level of training and communication is still required to ensure everyone understands what drones can and cannot be tasked to do.
End-user requirements can sometime be unrealistic, whereby either regulations or safety aspects can be misunderstood.
Another challenge is drone flying skills. There are not enough professional drone pilots in Singapore.
Automation, and technologies that automate safety, such as collision avoidance, is the way forward to avoid mistakes and reduce risk.
This being said, there are still roles and tasks for drones in Singapore, within a certain scope.
How does DRONEBOX overcome this? What value can it deliver?
DRONEBOX automates the entire drone deployment process, either for pre-programmed repetitive missions or as an ‘always-on’ ready-to-fly solution for certain security or safety applications.
[The system] houses, controls and re-charges the drone’s batteries automatically. It also sends and receives data, which is then processed for our end-users according to their requirement.
As no humans are required in the operation of such drone solutions, customers can economically deploy drones in extremely remote locations without having to send crews of drone specialists to operate such tasks. This is especially useful if data is needed on regular intervals, or if the location is costly to get to, or dangerous to stay in.
Drone boxes are already internet-connected today and can be operated from Singapore in faraway locations anywhere in the world.
Why and how is the product better than existing technology (in the field of security and land surveying, etc)?
Full automation of drone deployment from anywhere and anytime brings completely new possibilities.
No need to wait for pilots, no need to recharge batteries, no more traveling to remote areas, no need to wait for months to survey hundreds or thousands of different sites internationally.
New use cases not previously possible also arise, such as the ability to have drones react to sensors in other locations, and for drones to communicate with sensor networks, as well as other drones, to conduct various tasks.
A real IoT network of drones, or ‘Internet of Drones’ is now made possible where existing technology is still very slow and costly.
It is immediate, can act on situations within seconds, or can do repetitive tasks in faraway places while removing travel costs for operators. It can do this simultaneously with thousands of other drones so that mission critical data can be processed within hours, instead of months and sometimes years.
What are your thought’s on the role of government in boosting entrepreneurship? Should they play a large role or is a bottom-up approach more favourable?
Governments have many ways they can support entrepreneurship. Of course, the entrepreneur and his team should be able to fight his way out of any situation regardless of the type of support. But a support system is still needed, whether it be supporting R&D, capability development in manpower, go-to-market and test-bedding, or international expansion.
Singapore has all of these support systems in place, which makes it uniquely favourable to an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
From what [H3 Dynamics] has seen and experienced, we must say that we are very impressed with the dynamism of the Singapore government. It is not only forward-thinking, but it is fast-moving, reactive, and even proactive in working all available channels to make things happen.
We consider ourselves very lucky to be a Singaporean company – it makes us feel strongly that we should contribute and give back in any way that we can – so that we can play our part in the dynamism of Singapore.
Speaking of Singapore, how can drones play a crucial role in Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives?
Over the coming years, we see drones play a number of transformative roles in Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives, in various roles ranging from infrastructure management, maritime related inspection work, to public safety and disaster response – even delivery services.
We envision fully autonomous drones could be deployed to gather entirely new data sets, data that until now, was not cost effective.
Singapore already has a number of research and live testing programs that apply drones in various aspects of life in Singapore.
From our perspective, drones are movable sensor platforms that connect into a larger IoT infrastructure, a key part of any Smart Nation development and planning.
For example, Drones and can capture a very detailed health status of exterior building walls, can look out for mosquito breeding grounds, enhance security systems and provide first responder support in emergency situations.
Could you elaborate on the unique challenges of building an IoT startup with a lot of moving parts (manufacturing, distribution, etc) as opposed to a startup without a physical product? What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who wish to tackle this sector?
Hardware is clearly not as simple, but we do have a fast-growing software element to our business: we sell our hardware as a platform for our software. It is true that without a strong software component, hardware businesses face significant long-term sustainability threats.
But things are changing on every front these days. We have learned to stay lean and raise our productivity level and it should be known that all the tools are there to make that possible today.
Hardware can be designed and outsourced to specialist companies, which means that our team can focus its efforts on design and commercialisation in a way this makes the activity similar to what we would find in a software business.
We try our best to avoid re-inventing anything, focus on what we are unique at, and make use of all existing capacity around us so that we can accomplish our goals as efficiently as possible.
Hardware development in Singapore is not easy – because many special components are imported and take a long time to get here. The lead times and the extra costs make this a challenge but it is still [a problem] that can be overcome if the hardware is special enough.
By surviving the challenge, we also become much stronger.
Interested in meeting H3 Dynamics? Get your last minute tickets here and meet these exhibitors up close and personal at Echelon Asia Summit 2016!
Photo courtesy of H3 Dynamics.