Founder Profile: The Future Of Drone Flight With Indemnis Co-Founder And CEO, Amber McDonald

 
Indemnis on Republic

Enabling the future of drone delivery.

Summary

The idea of a drone delivering your pizza or Amazon order may seem like a thing of fiction, but it will soon be a reality we will all face. It stands to change commerce in a meaningful way solving the challenges of last mile delivery logistics.

However, in order for this to truly become a reality one major element needs to be solved, which is safety. Drones will never get the okay from the FAA to fly over humans until it can be guaranteed or close to it, that we won’t have drones falling out of the air, plummeting to the ground where they can hurt or kill someone.

That is where the Indemnis team comes in. They have developed a technology and are working closely with the regulators to ensure we have the safety features needed to make drone flight in urban environments more than just a fantasy.

The whole world of distribution and commerce will be watching closely as they develop this technology, and we like their odds to win in this market. Learn more about the team below as we sit down with Co-Founder & CEO Amber McDonald.


Kingscrowd
Amber, can you provide background on how you and your team came to found indemnis?
Amber

Prior to founding Indemnis, Alan and I owned and operated a video production company, using drones to capture footage. On multiple occasions, the drones crashed and Alan had this crazy idea to put an inflatable bubble around a drone to protect them.

As drone operators, we saw where the industry was going, and we knew that someone had to create a solution in order to expand the industry. We looked at the problem, studied the dynamics of what was occurring, and engineered a solution. All six founders were close friends of Alan and we all had very different skills that complemented each other perfectly and we began to grow the team, thus Indemnis was born.

Kingscrowd
What is the main problem indemnis is solving for drone flight?
Amber

Indemnis provides both the hardware and the services that enable the integration of small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAS) into the national airspace for the purpose of safely performing commercial operations over urban environments. Or in short, Protecting life and property on the ground. We make it safe to commercially fly over populated areas.

Kingscrowd
Can you describe the technology behind your product?
Amber

The Nexus is a ballistic parachute launcher. It is a welded tube, made from a composite material called Dyneema, that is inverted and houses a parachute. When the drone experiences a failure, the Nexus deploys in under 30 milliseconds and throws the parachute at 90 mph. The tube shields the parachute lines during the deployment as it launches it past the roll radius of the aircraft thus escaping entanglement and allowing the parachute to open effectively 100% of the time.

The technological advancement that makes this process possible is the welding of the Dyneema composite material. Dyneema, which is the strongest fiber on the planet, is seven times stronger than Kevlar and fifteen times stronger than steel. Indemnis discovered how to weld multiple layers of the material to a base strength stronger than the material itself, which had never been done before. This discovery allowed us to create an airtight deployment tube that stays rigid at 30 PSI after the parachute launches — removing the attachment point of the parachute lines away from the control surfaces of the drone in a failure scenario. 

The material technology, advanced fall detection software, partnered with our patented deployment system has allowed us to create a reliable product for our customers that is unmatched in the market today.

Kingscrowd
How does indemnis differentiate versus other safety mechanisms for drones?
Amber

There are other companies out there producing parachute systems for drones but none have been tested repeatedly in a reactive failure scenario. Indemnis is producing a parachute recovery system that works without limitations, in all areas of the flight envelope.

We have studied the failure dynamics that are unique to multi rotor aviation and after fully understanding the problem, we were able to engineer a solution. Indemnis has the engineering data, impact studies, and human injury analysis documentation that is needed to prove to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that our system is compliant with the ASTM Standard Specification WK59171 for Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) Parachutes, and therefore a proper risk mitigation solution for obtaining a waiver from the FAA for flight operations over people.

Kingscrowd
You are working with the faa on devising the regulations around safety mechanisms for drones. can you tell us more about that?
Amber

Indemnis launched The Nexus in May 2017 at the Xponential convention in Dallas, TX. At the time, there was not a system on the market that had proven its functionality and the the FAA was immediately interested in the mechanics behind our product.

There was an ASTM working committee that was formed to evaluate the requirements needed to prove the functionality of a recovery system that works in all areas of the flight envelope. Indemnis was appointed as the technical lead for the ASTM Standard Specification WK59171 for Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) Parachutes. The standard is intended to set the bar for safety requirements for operations over people when using a parachute recovery system. Committee members also include the FAA, DJI, Amazon, and other industry leaders. That standard has passed and should be published in the near future.

Indemnis has more recently been appointed the technical lead and is in the process of developing the ASTM technical guide for use by operators, manufacturers, and service providers that outlines the various paths to achieving flight-over-people operations.

Regulators have entrusted our team to help author the rules that are enabling the industry to expand. This is a tall order, and the responsibility speaks volumes about the capabilities of our management team and the respect from our industry. Lots of exciting updates on the horizon in this area 🙂

Kingscrowd
How widespread do you think over-person drone flight will be in 3 to 5 years time and how large will the market be for your drone safety devices?
Amber

Drones impact virtually every industry and are changing the landscape for the way we operate. I believe in 3 to 5 years that their will be a mechanism for people to quickly obtain flight over people waivers and businesses will not only be using drones for aerial imaging, surveying, and infrastructure inspection, but delivery will be well on its way within 5 years.

There are a few technological and regulatory advancements that need to occur for all things to fall into place. First and foremost, we need friendly legislation for commercial drone operation and local support from government. The drone industry in general also needs a mechanism to quickly achieve flight over people waivers (which is what Indemnis is working on), remote ID (think of it like the license plate system for drones), UAS Traffic Management (UTM) for the integration of large numbers of drones into the airspace and the ability to communicate with each other.

The last thing that will greatly impact the drone industry is battery life and the development of a lightweight solution that can outperform today’s battery cycle.

The FAA is forecasting that there will be between 450K and 718K commercial aircraft by 2022 and those numbers do not include delivery or autonomous operations. The total available market for Indemnis products is between 125K and 200K aircraft based on the percentage of operations that will require flight over urban environments. That is a lot of Nexus units.  

Kingscrowd
Will your safety product be something companies will have to swap out after a certain amount of flights or is this a one time purchase?
Amber

The product is like an airbag in your car, it is not user serviceable once deployed. We are still testing and evaluating the shelf life for the packed parachute but Indemnis is developing a hot swap program to service that need, whatever it may be.

Kingscrowd
Who are the large enterprises interested in mass utilization of overhead drones and do you think these companies will become customers? similar to when the internet created a market for online shopping and those who didn't get onboard did not survive - drone delivery will impact all the big retailers. companies such as, amazon, walmart, home depot, lowes, target, kroger. delivery will also be a priority for companies like fed-ex, ups, and even fast food delivery from mcdonalds, dominos, and uber eats.
Amber

Similar to when the internet created a market for online shopping and those who didn’t get onboard did not survive – drone delivery will impact all the big retailers. Companies such as, Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, Kroger. Delivery will also be a priority for companies like Fed-Ex, UPS, and even fast food delivery from McDonalds, Dominos, and Uber Eats.

Kingscrowd
When will indemnis be ready for commercialization and who will be your target consumer?
Amber

We are focused on providing safe and regulated commercial flight over people. Currently, Indemnis has chosen not sell units until we are confident our product meets the requirements outlined by the FAA for obtaining a waiver for flight over people.

Kingscrowd
Once commercialized, what will the general price range be of your product?
Amber

We produce for many different airframes and the Nexus costs anywhere from $3,500 to $8,500 depending on the size of the system.

Kingscrowd
What defensible moat are you building for your product and how are you going to deploy the capital raised to ensure that?
Amber

We have a broad approved patent that covers launching an aerodynamic decelerator from a drone with an inflatable apparatus. Based on the science behind the system, from a technological perspective there are few ways to successfully avoid entanglement on a multi-rotor aircraft, other than the method we are using.

In addition, we developed the process to bond the Dyneema material and there is not another high strength – lightweight material that we have found that will work for this application. We have been focused on securing our market share for the last four years and have successfully raised the capital needed to continue operations – we do not intend to stop here.

Kingscrowd
How has your experience been raising via republic, and what do you want investors to know who are maybe on the fence about investing?
Amber

It is hard put on paper the passion and dedication of our team. We have developed a system that works, we have pushed the regulation, we are changing the landscape of drone operation but none of that would have been possible without the people behind the scenes. We are here to stay and we hope you are just as excited as us to be apart of the journey.


What is so exciting about Amber and her team is the fact that they are developing the regulations around safety for drone flight over people, which is expected to grow in prevalence drastically in the coming years.

Being the ones who set the rules and who have the product to meet the rules creates a very interesting market differentiator that we think will enable this team to be out ahead of the market. If you like what you’ve read, be sure to invest HERE.


99
About: Chris lustrino

A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.

View Chris lustrino's founders
INVEST NOW