Jeroen Engelkes, a former pilot, had the ambition to stimulate drone activities for quite a while. He was inspired at the time when he was involved at the University of Delft Robo Valley initiative a few years back. However, with all the regulations and limitation on flying drones in open spaces, it was not easy to set up business in this area. Jeroen’s ‘out of the box’ thinking made him approach it differently and instead he set up the first indoor Drone center in Holland, where you can fly drones to your hearts content (7 days a week, 24 hours a day if you really wanted to).
Drone testing, racing and training
The former flight base in Valkenburg, situated between The Hague and Leiden in the west of Netherlands, is home to the first dutch Drone center which opened in February this year (2017). “The location is ideal and fits well with the ‘flight‘ theme. We are situated close to the international airport, to technical universities, innovation companies and to start-up hubs” says Jeroen.
The indoor center provides facilities for drones to be tested, to be raced and even provides a training paradise for drone pilots. “New drone features need to be tested, for example new batteries, new steering system or new autopilot. Besides that, there is a race track where the public or even company employees (as part of a workshop) can race drones. The training of pilots is seen as one of the most important services of the drone center. A drone pilot needs to have an ROC license in order to be able to fly drones commercially in certain situations and places.”
Organisations and start-up companies that have something to do with drones have the opportunity to set up their business at the Drone Center. A law firm that specialises in Drone regulations, a drone insurance company, drone academies or even start-ups that use drones for measurement, are some of the examples given by that Jeroen. “I want to create a drone ecosystem by bringing different drone partners together. My aim is to help put the Netherlands in a more competitive world position within the drone market which is rapidly growing.” It is estimated that the by 2023 the world drone commercial market will grow 19% annually up to 2023. (source ResearchNester) – with countries such as US, UK and China leading.
A good idea is a good start but the real art is to translate this into something physical and to continue to build on the idea. “For me the passion for the idea comes first and earning money is simply the result – its not the goal. I am not not there yet and have some time to go. Many seeds have been planted and there is a lot of interest in this sector- from the development of drone courses to the premier of the Red Bull drone races.” Jeroen needs to wait and see what the market brings yet is convinced that it won’t be long before the domino pieces start to topple. But how long can you hold onto this belief? “Every entrepreneur needs to know where ‘the point of no return’ is reached – when its time to stop. For every person this is different. Personally I have just begun, am financially independent from investors and can maintain my business for quite a while”.
From Idea to Reality
We asked Jeroen – what tips would you give upcoming entrepreneurs with cool ideas? Jeroen smilingly replied: “Despite being convinced and wanting to hold onto cool ideas, its very healthy to take a step back and take a critical view or listen to feedback. You can’t live off a good idea, ideas need to be translated to reality. It’s hard work but with the right steps it will work out. Every entrepreneur needs to look broader and to be continually open for change and new signals.” A platform such as the Cool Ideas Society helps entrepreneurs enrich their idea by providing creative, positive and sometimes challenging feedback.
Vision of the future
“My vision is to put the Netherlands on the world map of drone activities by partnering with key parties in Holland as well as from abroad. Next to that we need to continue to lobby for improved drone flying regulations and security. This will not only provide opportunities in the drone agricultural and infrastructure sectors but also media and entertainment industry. We are at the beginning of the future of drone businesses.”
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If you are in Holland and want to know more about the Drone Center – visit www.dronecentervalkenburg.com
(article by Bela Evers)