We started FEDS from a small office, with just me, two damn good pilots, and an office admin. At the time in the region, commercial drones were non-existent, so you can imagine the trouble I went through to find qualified pilots.
In the early days, we often had to wear multiple hats in the office. I would drive the pilots around to the sites and would also take charge to ensure that equipment like batteries are primed and ready for the mission. I'm also proud to say that I was probably the first to train a commercial drone pilot in UAE. Spoiler alert— he is now our Head of Training and Support.
Drones were also largely unregulated at this point, but we had a very mindful approach to this. We would actively engage in discourse with the local regulatory authorities on drones and their applications. We ensured that regulators in the region were aware of the positive impact of drones and how drones could be regulated safely and securely while leaving room for growth.
When we started the organization, we wanted to be the best in the region with a long-term plan of being the best in the world. The strategy behind this was simple enough- hire the best people, use the best equipment, and always follow best practices.
Implementing this was not as easy. It honestly took us a while to put it together and master what we do, but once we had it, everything else fell into place.
Something that sticks out to me as phenomenal is the growth. FEDS experienced an exponential growth rate. And in the few short years, we've outgrown three offices so far.
2017 was when we got a real taste of megaprojects. The first highlight was improvising our own powerline inspection drone using an M-600 fitting with a Canon DSLR camera- at this time off-the-shelf solutions that we take for granted now just didn't exist. Using this drone and payload combo, we inspected the OHTL towers across UAE to improve the grid's reliability.
Second, was working on the world's largest single-site solar power plant in Sweihaan. Working with these big organizations and helping achieve massive goals is gratifying. Hard work, is gratifying.
When MoCCaE came to and tasked us to map 1,100 sqkm of farmlands in 2019- we were excited. When we found out that data would be used to create a sustainable agricultural model- we loved it. But, the challenge was how do you analyze such a huge dataset. By the time you had manually processed it, data from your initial flights would be invalid. And so we created our own Machine Learning Algorithm that would automatically analyze the data to classify into the type of tree, age, type of animal, and much more.
Soon enough, we reached one of the significant milestones in our long-term plan. In 2019, FEDS ranked 7th in the Mapping / Surveying and Inspection category in Top 20 Drone Service providers. I have to say though, basing our business in Dubai springboarded our progress. Dubai gives you the perfect environment of safe regulations while leaving room for innovation. This gave us the space to grow and expand.
2020 was a year of trials and tribulations. Many of us had to navigate through difficult times and adapt to what we now know as the new norm. However, for drones, 2020 was pivotal- drones helped humans stay isolated while looking after the community. We saw many applications come out, like the National Sterilization drive where drones sprayed down the roads and public spaces and more. Our family even grew globally when we entered into a strategic alliance with Aerodyne Group. Their DT3 approach helps us deliver even more disruptive solutions.
We started this as just a couple of people flying drones. But the journey is a lot more than just flying drones. We've smiled, endured and worked hard. We've undoubtedly grown and certainly innovated. And I have no doubt in my mind that that is the way we will continue to operate and that our journey is long from over.