Jan Wouter Kruyt, head of R&D, invited me to their office building in The Hague and gave me the opportunity to take a look inside the multimillion drone company Aerialtronics, in order to see what this company means for the world of Drones.
In The Hague, nearby the sea, a building is located in front of “the second harbour”. Seagulls are screeching and the wind is strong. Knowing that Aerialtronics is located in this particular building, you would expect to see something flying through the air above the harbour. But there isn’t. The drones are inside.
“The building consists of several sections,” Jan Wouter explains, while he gives us a tour through the building. Aerialtronics is responsible for the production of Drones in The Netherlands, he tells us. “The Dutch section of our company is located in the front of this building,” he says. “We also have a section in Spain. They are responsible for the hardware of the drones.” Some of the employees are busy working behind their computers, while others make phone calls or are discussing the latest news with each other. They are all working in the front of the building. “The employees from the management-, sales-, marketing- and purchasing department are working in this area,” Jan Wouter says, while referring to the people that are sitting at the two desks in front of the big window, located in the front section of the building.
“Furthermore, we also have people working on research and development. They are working in this area of the building,” he says, while walking to the next area. We are surrounded by computers, lots of electronical components and a 3D printer. The atmosphere is relaxed, people that are working in this section of the building are talking and laughing. “It is easier to have a 3D printer in your workplace, since it saves time and money. Before we had a 3D printer, we had to go to other companies and wait for them to produce the components we asked for.” Jan Wouter greeted his colleague and continued explaining. “Here we are designing and developing the drones and its components. We also have some employees working on the electronics.”
Several drones were hanging on the wall. Every drone looked different. “Those drones are prototypes for our current generation,” Jan Wouter explains. “We are currently working on the new generation Drone, an R&D prototype. It is the same drone as on our banners.” He laughed. “Aerialtronics started the business by putting packages together. We created our drones in this way. However, gradually we added our own design and electronica to the drones. Nowadays, our drones are capable of more things than before. It is amazing to see how our company grows!”
“One big hobby blast, as you can see”
“We produced about hundred drones of the third generation last year,” Jan Wouter continued. “We are capable of producing 8 drones a month. Every person that is working in the production part of the company, is capable of making a drone himself. Due to this, we only need one or two people to put the drone together. Of course there are a lot more people involved in the process of making a drone. We have 35 people working in this company.” He laughed, and said: “One big hobby blast, as you can see.”
Aerialtronics also has pilots within the company. Jan Wouter states that this is the reason why the company still exists. Their concurrents are the drone producers in China, since they are capable of producing hundreds of drones a month, while Aerialtronics only can produce hundred drones a year. However, Aerialtronics delivers their drones in a package, including service and a training for the pilot.
Jan Wouter laughed, and said: “I am not capable of flying with a drone, unfortunately.” He explains that it is obligatory for pilots and companies to have a certificate, in order to control a drone. And there are more rules concerning drones. The drones should be approved and the requirements varies per country. This makes it hard for the company to make drones, since things that are not allowed, are already possible for the company to produce. Furthermore, it is obligatory to control a drone with two pilots in The Netherlands, whereas you only need one pilot to control a drone in other countries. Aerialtronics produces drones for clients all over the world.
Several years ago, it was common that media companies bought drones, in order to use them to shoot video material. However, Aerialtronics found out that this is not an upcoming market to produce for. Nowadays, the company refers clients with the demand for video material to other companies. Aerialtronics only provide their clients with drones. Jan Wouter says: “It is hard for us to find out with which idea we can make money with or not.” Police corporations and big companies as T-Mobile and Shell are Aerialtronics biggest clients. “It is a matter of time till another corporation asks for a drone, once a police corporation have bought a drone from our company,” Jan Wouter says. Police corporations use their drones for security. Companies as T-Mobile and Shell buy drones for inspection work, to check, for example, if the high masts need to be maintained. “You do not want to send your employee on a platform if it is not necessary.”
During the last few weeks, a police corporation from Belgium send their police men to Aerialtronics to follow training, in order to control a drone. However, they had a dilemma during the Brussel attacks. The corporation wanted to use the drone but it was not possible, due to the fact that they did not had their certificate yet.