AERYON LABS, INC.
Watching what humans cannot see, soaring where humans cannot walk, capturing the images humans cannot take… the Aeryon SkyRanger drone is capable of truly astonishing things, as is its creator, Waterloo-based small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) manufacturer Aeryon Labs, Inc. (Aeryon).
Aeryon dedicates itself to two main products: the Scout, and the newer, more advanced SkyRanger. The company also manufactures supporting products, such as cameras. Dave Kroetsch, Aeryon’s president, chief executive officer, and co-founder, emphasizes that the company’s products are high-end tools, not toys; the Aeryon SkyRanger is built for serious, industrial work in all weather conditions, rather than home videos.
At Aeryon, there is no typical customer. Public sector customers include public safety and commercial clients who seek aerial intelligence or monitoring. These can be surveyors and industrial users who use the drones to inspect towers and pipelines, agriculturalists in need of digital mapping, or even longtime client the Ontario Provincial Police, which used the firm’s drones to monitor traffic at the XVII Pan American Games in 2015. The systems are also used to map traffic accidents, allowing for a faster and more accurate response.
An Aeryon Scout was even used in the Aleutian Islands to monitor a Steller sea lion population. Thanks to the Scout’s superior design, researchers could launch, operate, and recover the drone in extreme Arctic weather and water conditions. The Scout captured over 60,000 images from afar without disturbing the sea lions, helping the American government better study and protect a beautiful marine species.
In a market with so many possible applications, Aeryon’s greatest challenge is focusing on select areas of expertise. After speaking with a range of potential customers, Aeryon’s team developed a point-and-click drone that can operate in rain or snow.
THE COMPANY’S ENGINEERS TRY TO IMAGINE THEMSELVES AS OPERATORS IN THE FIELD, AND THEN DESIGN THE CONTROLS AND INTERFACE IN THE MOST USER-FRIENDLY WAY POSSIBLE.
With more than 50 per cent of sales in the Middle East, Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and 30 other countries, Aeryon recently netted a 2014 Export Ontario award. The company typically enters a foreign market through reseller channels, although it occasionally sells directly as well. The executive team also attends many trade shows, which have proven to be “a crucial sales tool,” says Kroetsch.
“Aeryon Labs is the small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) provider at the center of major world events and international media stories.” Aeryon Labs is an industry and technology leader in the design and manufacture of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), serving civil and military customers and commercial businesses.
Headquarters: 575 Kumpf Drive, Waterloo, ON N2V 1K3
- Dave Kroetsch, President, CEO and co-founder
- Andrea Sangster, Senior Marketing Manager
Year established: 2007
Number of employees: 115 (November 2015)
Revenues: Not given, but growing at 100%
Line of business
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) NAICS: 334511 – Navigational and Guidance Instruments Manufacturing
Aeryon Skyranger (to phase out Scout), Aeryon Scout (1st generation) etc – often designed to military or other customer specifications.
Customers: military (including Libyan rebels, Saudi defence ministry), public safety and commercial clients, such as aerial intelligence (military) or monitoring facilities (business) – “entreprise-class” and “tactical” customers
- includes Ontario Provincial Police
- surveyors and industrial users who use drones to inspect towers, pipelines, agriculturalists, digital mapping
- over 35 countries worldwide, much in Middle East, also Australia, China, Saudi Arabia and United States
- attend many trade shows – crucial sales tool
- direct and reseller channels – resellers helpful because they know foreign markets
- 50-80% of sales
R&D and Educational needs
Computer and electrical engineering, video processing, digital video compression, telecommunications, mechanical and mechatronic system design, hardware design, aerodynamics engineering, software development, robotics, image compression, artificial intelligence, camera and battery design, propulsion systems.
Kroetsch had always been interested in robotics and remote controlled planes. After several tech jobs, in 2007, Kroetsch started Aeryon with Steffen Lindner and Mike Peasgood, with goal of bringing drones to the commercial, then-nonexistent market. The first drone was suited for military use, creating a large military initial customer base.
Hugely competitive global industry, despite being technology and industry leaders
- ING Robotic Aviation
- 4 Front Robotics
- many U.S. competitors
- Good government support
- Partner with Dejero – broadcast live HD video from drones
- Technology, R&D core competency
- Canada’s friendly regulatory environment (helps in competition with U.S.)
- drone laws, gives Aeryon access to airspace – they can test, demonstrate systems whereas U.S. competitors mostly cannot
- Canadian export laws more lenient, U.S. drones are classified as military and face more export restrictions
- High-end applications, such as structure inspections in O&G markets
- Ease of use
- Dependent on reselling – difficult to approach foreign governments and entreprises
- May be too late in U.S. market, with their weakening laws – small presence at commercial trade shows
- 80% sales outside North America – opportunities beyond U.S. market
- well-positioned to enter new commercial markets – reliable in harsh weather
- Burgeoning market for inexpensive camera drones
2010, started attending biannual Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference (SOFEX) in Marka, Jordan, greatly boosting international profile
Recently introduced optical zoom image capture on Aeryon SkyRanger – no other drone company had done
Annual growth mostly 100%/year
- 2014 Export Ontario Award
- Has been ranked 10th in the 2015 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards, as well as 87th in the North American Technology Fast 500 ranking