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Drone entrepreneurs’ business takes off

Flying high: Connor Burns, left, and E.J. Burrows, founders of Bermuda Aerial Media and Calgary-based hi-tech firm Skymatics with one of their drones, used in Canada to provide services to agriculture and industry

A Bermudian-born company is taking off in Canada with a high-tech software program linked to drones and aimed at the insurance industry.

The founders of Bermuda Aerial Media launched sister firm Skymatics in Calgary two years ago and now employs five staff, with two more in the pipeline.

And they now provide services to the agricultural insurance sector in more than 15 countries worldwide.

E.J. Burrows, who started the firms with business partner Connor Burns, said: “We originally started doing aerial mapping for construction and oil and gas companies and we did a lot of work involving agricultural imaging too.

“It’s come full circle — we’re developing imaging analysis software so farmers can take their own drones and map their fields.

“If a tornado or a storm hits the fields, the software automatically calculates the damage and calculates the amount, which is supplied to the insurer.”

Mr Burrows added that several major insurance companies based on the island had already contacted Skymatics’ office in Calgary inquiring about the software — and been surprised to learn it was a Bermudian-run business.

Mr Burrows said: “It’s going pretty well. We’re partnered with five to seven companies now.

“We still run Bermuda Aerial Media and this is now a new start for us and Connor is still running Bermuda Aerial Media for the time being.”

He added: “We’re hoping to bring back some of the more technical services to Bermuda and do a rebranding and expansion in Bermuda as well.”

Mr Burrows said, however, that the new venture took wings of its own after the launch of Bermuda Aerial Media in 2013.

He added: “It wasn’t a plan at all. We started doing advertising for Bermuda Aerial Media and then we looked at expanding that. It turned into a bigger operation and business than we anticipated.

“We want to grow as much as we can here and bring it back to Bermuda when we can.

“We saw there was a market for the services we were offering in Canada and there is a bigger market here.

“The first year, year and a half was really tough, but the last six to eight months, everything has been spiralling up. It’s fun and really challenging.”

The duo made history in Alberta after launching the first approved commercial drone flight in the province two years ago.

They used a drone to fly around 400 feet up to take footage of a major building site for promotional purposes.

It was the first time a special flight operations certificate had been given to a drone company by Transport Canada to conduct operations in Alberta.

Bermuda Aerial Media is best-known locally for the stunning aerial images of the island used in the America’s Cup promotional film.

Mr Burrows and Mr Burns won a top prize at an international competition in Greece in 2014, the first time Bermuda entrants had taken part in the International Future Agro Challenge at the Industry Disruptors event.

The Future Agro Challenge is a major event held during the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week.