“Ultimately, Swoop Aero will provide any service our technology platform can offer within our network coverage area that fits within our area of focus: value creation in an impactful and ethical
– Eric Peck, Swoop Aero
Learn more at: https://swoop.aero/
Eric Peck, CEO and Co-Founder of Swoop Aero
What can you tell us about your current position and professional background? And how did you get into drones?
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): I’m Eric Peck, the CEO and Co-Founder of Swoop Aero. Following the completion of my Bachelor of Technology at University, I started my career as a Pilot in The Australian Air Force, where I flew the C130J Hercules after a short stint flying the Hawk 127 lead in fighter. After 9 years in the Air Force and two combat tours of the Middle East flying the Hercules, I completed an MBA and moved in management consulting, ending up in the Strategy and Operations team at Deloitte. I met my Co-Founder Josh, a robotics engineer, in 2017, and together we founded Swoop Aero to transform how the world moves by making access to the skies seamless. The founding of the company was borne from a question about whether a drone could be used to transport cancer medication in the Australian outback.
What is your perspective on the commercial drone market in the next years?
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): Globally, the commercial drone ecosystem has moved on from the pioneer phase and is approaching the end of the early adoption phase, which is exciting for market leaders in their respective fields. I see regulation globally as forward leaning; I think the perception of regulation holding back the market is somewhat misplaced. The simple fact is that the underlying technology wasn’t ready for operations at scale or cost effective, so there wasn’t a regulatory driver to support it. We’re still seeing evidence of that, with only a handful of companies able to progress in the certification process despite heavy VC investment and government subsidies to enable it, and only two or three companies able to safely deploy drone services at scale. Doing 5 flights a day safely is fundamentally different to 200. We view our limiting factor to scaling up operations and revenue as only our ability to manufacture assets, and we’ve invested heavily into this area to enable ramp-up of our operations and partnerships.
Another feature of the market will be consolidation, as vertically integrated OEMs pursue an M&A strategy to acquire market share and maintain their technological moat. Ultimately, I see a market landscape with two or three major players holding 80% market share within a region, and a number of smaller players holding the remaining 20%.
Where do you see the Australian drone market compared to other countries such as USA,
China, or Germany?
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): It’s worth noting that Swoop Aero considers regulatory frameworks in the context of operating drones at scale, rather than a singular one-off operation. In this case, consider a fleet of aircraft over a broad area, servicing a large number of customers.
Australia was very forward leaning on drone regulation 4 or 5 years ago, however the management of drones has stalled more recently. As compared to larger UK, European, or US regulators, Australia has lacked the resources to invest heavily into the sector. In Australia, we haven’t seen the innovation the UK sandbox program or FAA Beyond program has facilitated; however, this is changing
A range of new programs to accelerate the adoption of emerging aviation technology have been deployed to catch back up. As an example of where we are seeing this collaboration; Swoop Aero are simultaneously certifying our Kite aircraft with the FAA and CASA in Australia. We expect to have 4 BVLOS logistics operations up and running in Australia by the end of 2022 (we have one consumer delivery operations running right now).
We expect to see the trend of accelerating regulatory frameworks for deployment of drone operations at scale replicated globally
How has your business handled the coronavirus pandemic and in which areas did you face the
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): Although we’ve tripled in size, flown 10,000 BVLOS flights, and raised two rounds of Venture Capital during the pandemic: it’s by no means been an easy journey. The biggest challenge we faced was a reduction in global mobility, particularly to and from Australia with its hard border protection measures, which lasted for around 20 months.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, our service commitment that we could get anywhere in the world within 72 hours was fundamentally impeded, and it forced us to accelerate our journey toward being able to manage a fleet of drones fully-remotely. Our first test was running Malawi and DR Congo fully remotely from Australia; we were the first company in the world to operate a bi-directional drone delivery network from outside the country of operation. Ultimately, we sustained our operations remotely and saw operations run by us or partners launch in the UK, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Australia; and expand significantly in DR Congo and Malawi.
In which industry verticals does your company focus on currently?
- Health Care and Disaster Relief
- Public Emergency Services
- Safety & Security
- Transportation Infrastructure
- Courier Service and Warehousing
Why did you choose this industry vertical(s) and what other markets have high potential for drones from your perspective?
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): Our mission is to provide the world’s leading technology platform for sustainable and scalable drone logistics; Swoop Aero deploys world-leading drone hardware, software, and operational capabilities to increase speed, efficiency, and reach in the delivery of essential health supplies.
Operationally, our core competency is getting something from a 3-dimensional point in space, to a point in space, at a specific time. Whether that’s anti-venom and urgent blood to a hospital, or a camera over a bushfire zone, is largely irrelevant to us, and our technology platforms (hardware and supporting software) enables a range of services beyond pure logistics, including surveying, mapping, UHD live video observation, and search and rescue, all without a tool required to switch between flight types.
Ultimately, we will provide any service our technology platform can offer within our network coverage area, that fits within our area of focus: value creation in an impactful and ethical way.
Swoop Aero has received BVLOS approvals for drone delivery in 8 countries, what can you tell us about the market potential for drone delivery and BVLOS operations in countries?
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): We see a huge latent market for drone logistics in both developing and developed countries. A common misconception is that drone logistics replaces cars, motorbikes, and boats; however, it’s really about the addition of a new mode of transport into the supply chain, the service delivery model, the effect that has on the level of service companies can offer, and the price point at which they can offer it. What we will see is a full transformation across the industries that find use cases
for drone logistics, whether that’s disaster management or postal services, and the associated network effect as adoption of the service takes off. We’re still one to two years away from that in highly regulated markets like Australia, but it will happen sooner where operations are permitted, and companies like Swoop are willing to make the investment and put their safety record at front of mind.
What makes your solution unique to the market? What would you say is your Unique Selling Point?
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): We provide the complete infrastructure to deploy drone operations at scale. Our technology ecosystem is completely native with no external dependencies, our processes are designed for deployment at scale (100s of flights a day), and we’ve got a track record of success that can be trusted. In short, we have full control of our tech stack, users and customers can trust that it works, and we provide everything needed to run operations, including procedures and insurance.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge in the drone market as a …?
– Drone Manufacturer:
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): Scale up of certified manufacturing
– Drone Service Provider:
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): Regulatory reaction to the first series incidents within the industry as operations increase in complexity and flight volume.
– Drone Software Developer:
Eric Peck (Swoop Aero): Cyber Security resilience