Episode 31 – How to make money with drones. Featuring Rob Simmerling and Peter LeCoufe of Harrier Aerial Surveys

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No it’s…….Superdrone? You mean those things we see on the news peering into high rise windows? Those unmanned vehicles that became famous over the last decade and a half of war? Or do you mean those little helicopters capturing killer footage for the latest ski or bike film?


Well, none of, and all of the above at once. Truth be told, during times of heightened military action, like the world has experienced post 9/11, innovation gets to feast on a heavy diet of government dollars. Yes a scenario where you’ve got an all but blank cheque, with the only caveat being to make the biggest, best, smallest, stealthiest, most awesome technology to help beat the bad guys. Hmmm maybe there’s an economic development model there, minus the war….OK that’s another show.


What happens when that time of heightened military action that drove an innovation boom begins slowing down? Just like any business, when one market starts to die out, you work to find others to feed your growth and fill the gap. One of the biggest sectors that made a huge leap forward in innovation and technology that has now been moving into the mainstream commercial markets in a big way is unmanned aerial vehicles….otherwise known as Drones.


The proliferation of small, recreational drones has been enormous as prices have plummeted. Every homemade ski video has drone footage it seems these days. The capabilities of drones however are just beginning to be explored, expanded and perfected.


Two Nelson BC based entrepreneurs have come together and made a big move into the drone world. Rob Simmerling has several decades of precision measurement experience behind him through two past and existing businesses. Peter LeCouffe is an army reserve veteran, and in his mid-twenties is also a young and up and coming entrepreneur. The two have teamed up to launch Harrier Aerial Surveys. Utilizing two high end aircraft, one a fixed wing, the other a multi-rotor, outfitted with the best digital surveying equipment. The end result is being able to gather precision measurements at a far higher accuracy than a survey crew could, while going into terrain a survey crew couldn’t get to or maneuver in, then turning that out into a series of 3D models, imagery and survey data for a seemingly limitless set of purposes.


I sat down with Rob and Peter in the Kootenay Coop Radio Studios in Nelson, six months after their launch to check in with them on how they’re opening up a new market with emergent technology.


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