In the latest installment of “Meet a Dronepreneur, Waypoint chats with John Downing, whose company, LETELmetrics, provides a wide range of professional drone services, including construction, surveying, precision agriculture and more.
- Tell us a little about your journey into the world of drones. When, how and why did you first start thinking about and then using this technology?
My journey into the world of drones started with a shovel. I started out in the construction industry, moving dirt, cleaning out manholes, etc., and I moved up from working the roller to understanding grading and becoming proficient with every machine.
When GPS for the machines really hit the market, my company was one of the first to buy a GPS machine and put it on my [bulldozer]. No one knew how to use the thing, so I learned! My knowledge and understanding of the technology kept pace with the growth of technology in real-time.
About three years ago, I heard about drones coming out that could perform ground surveys in real-time, cutting back on construction-site mistakes. At the time, this was a large investment, but the company I was with then, Magnum Contracting, realized it could position itself as the only place that could use professional-grade drones to handle mapping among various other worksite applications. Then I proposed to Magnum that we should start another business dedicated to these professional drones.
The following year, LETELmetrics was incorporated. I talked to other contractors, went to trade shows and hit the pavement personally to get the sales process down. By the end of the first year, things began to click.
- Tell us about one of your favorite or most challenging drone projects. Where and what was it? What made it stand out? What did you learn?
Recently, one of our guys, Reese Kinney, was having an amazing time in Columbus, Ohio mapping an area. But he saw the perfect weather he was enjoying wouldn’t last long. His entire job was going to be ruined if he didn’t get it done in half the time.
He decided to get a jump on all of the sites he was mapping, starting farthest away and working his way back toward Columbus. The wind was picking up…the rain on its way…but the drones handled the high winds well.
Reese got it all done in the nick of time, processing the imagery (which is what takes the most time) as soon as he got back to his hotel, processing all six jobs through the night, and sending them to me the next morning… just as the rain came.
That’s the way things are handled at LETELmetrics. Whatever’s needed, the team jumps to action and gets everything done with accuracy and high-level skills. It’s what’s given us the reputation we have and helps keep the work flowing.
- What impact would you say drone technology has had on your working life?
Drone technology gave our company a distinct personality and vision, which enabled us to grow and become something much more than when we started. LETELmetrics is now a full-service engineering company, a big step up from just providing drone applications for companies. But those drone applications—and how well we do them and how unique what we offer is—paved the way and laid the groundwork for us to expand and grow.
- What kind of role do you see drone technology playing in the future for companies such as yours? Can you imagine what your working life might look like several years down the line?
Drone technology has grown so fast, I can’t imagine what five years from now holds. But whatever it is, LETELmetrics will still be incorporating all of it into what we do as a full-service engineering company in several states. I plan to be leading the world’s best team and changing other companies’ lives the way LETELmetrics has changed mine!
- If you could give 3 tips to a budding dronepreneur, what would they be?
- You have to be the missing puzzle piece that your customer has been looking for. Show them exactly what your experience with drones can do to improve their business.
- Never stop learning. Go to all the trade shows you can and attend every conference… stay up to date on all the latest trends and keep yourself on top of your game.
- Build a good team, including your relationships with vendors! You can’t get it all done alone. You need the help of good people who know what they’re talking about—like the awesome people at senseFly.
Thank you for your time, John!
You’re very welcome.
Industries served: construction, agriculture, residential, commercial, surveying, engineering, development, planning
senseFly Drones: eBee X, eBee Plus
Software: for photogrammetry it’s Pix4D
Avg. flights per month: approximately 50
Total flight hours: As a company, 10,000+!
Dream robot: one that does all the manual work for us!