By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
According to Cody Retlich, he has two passions: drones and helping people.
Retlich became professionally involved with drones while studying Entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater. During that time, he worked for a firm that used drones to conduct surveys of agricultural land. The technology fascinated him, and he began to explore its many commercial possibilities.
Convinced that the demand for drones would eventually become significant, Retlich launched his first business, Midwest Aerial Productions (MAP) in 2016. The company connects freelance drone pilots with jobs. Ad agencies, property management and construction companies are just a few of the industries that require drone work. Today, MAP has more than 5,550 pilots in their network.
Through MAP, he learned the drone industry from the ground up.
“I saw a lot of common problems in the way missions were handled, jobs were booked, people got paid and data was transferred. By learning and working with pilots, I figured out what worked and what didn’t,” Retlich said. “I’ve personally interviewed almost 2,200 pilots in the last two and a half years. I discovered the pain points.”
From there, the MAP founder tapped into his other passion: helping people.
With a strong understanding of the industry needs, Retlich found an opportunity to amid the industry challenges. He launched a spinout company, DroneAdair, in 2020.
This new company provides a SaaS solution that supports both drone pilots, and the companies that hire them.
“It is a two-sided platform,” explained Retlich. “It is built for drone pilots to automate their business and scale their operations by delivering on-demand booking capabilities, customizable data sets and much more.”
“But, there is also an enterprise component to the software,” he continued, “where companies that are using drone pilots or drone services can use it to manage internal pilots, get jobs booked, customize and analyze their data.”
The end-to-end sales and marketing automation platform is currently in the hands of 35 beta users. Demand for the product is strong. There is a waitlist of more than 750 pilots eager to begin using the product when it officially launches this spring.
The subscription-based software will be available at a tiered pricing structure. Users may choose between a free version with limited capabilities, a more robust version for a monthly fee of $199, or a professional version of the software at a cost of $299 per month.
Access to capital is always a key focus as startups work toward the commercial launch of a product. Drone Adair got a bit of help when it was accepted into the techstars accelerator program in 2022.
“I am so glad we did it,” Retlich said. “We met some amazing people and got some amazing mentors through the program. The experience of going through an accelerator was great. It helped push our partnerships and operations forward.”
All startups that complete the three-month accelerator program receive a $120,000 investment into the company.
DroneAdair plans to open a pre-seed funding round sometime in first quarter. “The raise will go to the development of the enterprise model. It’s wire-framed out and ready to rock. We just need some development time and costs. The rest of it goes to marketing and scaling our team.”
To follow the rise of this emerging company, connect with DroneAdair here.