In conversation with
Mr. Sean Reitz
CEO | United Drone Holdings
FDI Spotlight: What is the DNA of United Drone Holdings?
Sean Reitz: UDH is a commercial B2B drone business, established in South Africa, but with an international ambition. Our capacity to address the breadth of the commercial drone market puts us in a unique position to add value across the spectrum. Our offerings include Training, Consulting, a Drone Conference, Hardware sales, Flight Operations and Contract Services in various fields.
In your opinion, what is the current status of the drone industry in South Africa?
Sean Reitz: The drone industry is the most exciting industry at the moment. It is diverse and spans multiple verticals from mining and agriculture to insurance and film. Unfortunately, many people do not really understand the industry very well as there is so much more to the drone industry than what people think. Often it is the glamorous side that attracts people to the industry. However, there are many technical aspects to it that need the right skills and attitude to achieve a good result.
Selection of operators and partners is key to our success and we are developing programmes to select and train staff in order to achieve scale. Part of our model is to partner with entrepreneurs that have industry know-how but lack the aviation or regulatory component, and it is here that we excel. I firmly believe that education is the key to unlocking the potential of drones and as such we set up Drone Con 2017. The intention is for this to be an annual event and for it to expand into Africa. The desired outcome is a better informed market, both from a supply and end-user perspective.
What sets you apart as a player within the industry and how do you choose who to partner with?
Sean Reitz: We are focused on the commercial aspects of the industry and look for solutions that will solve customer problems and allow them to improve their safety as well as profitability, both of which are achievable using drones. In terms of partners we prefer to deal with people who are passionate, driven, competent and entrepreneurial. I prefer partners who are experts in their own fields; they do not necessarily have to know a lot about drone technology, but they must know a lot about their own industry. Professionals have become the logical fit for us as they face the challenges on a daily basis and therefore best understand what aerial technology can do to improve and disrupt their industry.
In terms of expanding into Africa and especially helping develop the concept of a united, liberated African sky, what are the challenges and opportunities that you see?
Sean Reitz: Regulation remains the biggest challenge, both locally and internationally. Drone technology has developed so fast and continues to evolve at a rate that is difficult for regulators to manage. The drone industry, working together with governments and regulators can solve this issue and there is a desperate need for alignment in order to create an allowing environment. The adoption of drone technology will result in the creation of jobs, improvement of employee safety and increased production. All this together means increased country growth and enhanced prosperity.
There is also an enormous opportunity for investment in this industry, which will grow exponentially. Drone technology and what drones can do is not only exceptionally diverse, it also continually improves. It is important to remember that there is an entire team of people working behind the scenes with the pilot who controls the drone. This team requires the skills needed to assist and therefore investing in the human capital that drives this exponential industry should be a focus for industry and government alike.
Do you think the drone industry could revolutionise Africa in a way that no other industry has done before?
Sean Reitz: Drones are a component of the exponential world and so it is the digital ecosystem that will revolutionise Africa and many other parts of the world. Drones need communication technology, processing software, human capital and traditional business resource to perform and are therefore really just a component of an exciting new world. As mentioned before, the industry and market is incredibly diverse. There is no doubt that drones will play a vital role in acquiring data that will change the way in which things are done and improve outcomes. In order for this to take place there is a requirement for the convergence of various technologies and an accommodating regulatory framework.