By Daniel Riley
Quadrocopter L.L.C, located in Whitefish Montana was one of the first companies in the U.S. to offer ready-to-fly drones designed for aerial video and photography. After their founding in 2010, Quadrocopter quickly grew into a multi-million dollar company with over 10 employees. In the past, anyone wanting to utilize drones in their production had to hire a specialist or already have extensive knowledge about radio control and electronics. Quadrocopter has made it possible for small companies and individuals to obtain and operate their own sUAS without having to be an expert or struggle through the build process. This brings the technology to a whole new market.
Quadrocopter L.L.C was officially founded in 2010 by Adam Paugh and Florian Seeger. In 2006 Flori started quadrocopter.us as a support website to help people build multirotor kits. Initially their idea was to offer aerial video and photography services in the Montana area, but it wasn’t long before they realized the vast market for ready-to-fly multirotor copters. They partnered with Jeff Scholl, who had been attaching cameras to RC helicopters since 1999. His company, Gravity Shots, was one of the first aerial video producers that used radio-controlled aircraft instead of manned airplanes and helicopters. His years of industry experience helped Quadrocopter develop platforms for high quality aerial filming. They began primarily building and selling drones manufactured by the German company Mikrokopter. Shortly after, they started incorporating components from the New Zealand companies Droidworx and Photohigher. “I like to describe Quadrocopter as a systems integrator. We take the best frame systems, the best flight systems, the best blades and the best cameras and we put it all together,” Paugh said. They also sell all the individual drone parts for those who are more technically inclined, and want to build or make repairs on their own.
Their larger multirotor drones can cost up to $20,000 and be very dangerous to people and property. In the hands of an amateur, these aircraft can be a disaster waiting to happen. The key part of Quadrocopters business, is training. They offer free training lessons with the purchase of any ready-to-fly model. In addition, the larger copters they sell come with a computer flight simulator and a small trainer quadcopter for customers to practice their flying skills. The in-house training sessions can last several days and clients learn to repair, maintain, and control the drones. Clients can even sign up for an in-house build along, where they observe their drone being built to become more familiar with the components and construction. Not only does this benefit the customer, but also the drone industry as a whole. If drones are sold to inexperienced people, crashes are almost guaranteed to happen. They are also more likely to use the device in unsafe ways. It’s crucial that pilots are aware of their copters limits and safety boundaries. Pilot training is a great way to minimize incidences and help build a positive reputation towards drones.
Within the past two years, companies such as DJI have been flooding the market with drones that are ready to fly out of the box such as the Phantom and Inspire 1. Because of this, Quadrocopter has been adjusting their target market in hopes of dodging the influx of consumer drones. They are now focusing more on larger copters designed for carrying cinema grade camera gear. In order to reach these markets, they have been advertising at trade shows and events relating to the film industry. In the process they have developed prosperous relationships with several equipment manufactures.
In 2012, Quadrocopter started selling multirotor frames and camera gimbals from the manufacturer, Freefly Systems. The “Cinestar” frame quickly became an industry standard, as well as Quadrocopters flagship ready-to-fly model. In addition, Freefly’s “Movi” camera gimbal has also been an industry changer for both aerial and ground based video. Quadrocopter and Freefly have had a great relationship in successfully promoting each other’s products and services.
Recently announced at the 2015 NAB show (National Association of Broadcasters), Quadrocopter will soon be selling mobile UAV command vehicles. These are designed specifically to act as a control hub for drone operations. Equipped with custom multirotor storage areas, extendable long-range antennas, and generators, these vehicles will vastly extend the capabilities of drone operator teams.
During their infancy, Quadrocopter was one of the only companies in the USA to sell RTF drones. With the explosion of the industry, this quickly changed, but not soon enough to prevent Quadrocopter from becoming the most trusted brand for filmmakers and companies alike. They have developed an impressive client list including NASA, Walt Disney, Google, and ESPN. In addition, several universities have also purchased platforms for research applications. These days, they are selling over 300 Ready-to-fly drones per year and this number is ever increasing.