What's a startup?

Darragh Kirwan attaching motors and speed controllers to the drone.

Darragh Kirwan attaching motors and speed controllers to the drone.

What a startup is is often debated. It’s used the most in relation to tech companies with the potential to scale very quickly. I began my career in a tech startup solely because I was curious and incredibly hungry to learn as much and as fast as possible.

A few weeks ago we went to the IdeaBench run by Brendan O’Donnell, we picked an idea, created the hardware piece, thought through the business proposition and hooked the hardware up to be controlled by an app. Quickly bringing an idea to reality and working through all those problems in between is the best sense of satisfaction that you can get. People asked me why and if I was starting up. I had no answer, my only thought was ‘why would you not see what you could build!’.

In the Bank of Ireland workbench, conversations run from SpaceX to what’s happening around DNA, to why ‘life like’ dolls are taxed differently and what constitutes that. That’s why I love my work. Startup is much bigger than the success stories, or any definition. Startup is a state of mind.

I asked two locals who decided to build a drone, because why not, about how it came about. This is a great example of the huge talent we have working quietly away in Galway. This, is the substance behind the story we give out.

Colm Hally and Darragh Kirwan answered my questions:

What’s your day job?

During the day we work at Altocloud, a data-driven predictive communications startup based in the NUI Galway Innovation Centre. Colm works on scaling our infrastructure and Darragh is a front-end engineer

Why did you start the side project to begin with?

We’ve always been interested in unmanned flight and drone technology. Darragh worked on an autonomous flight project for his final year thesis and we've all been wowed by the incredible photos & videos that drones have captured in recent years. Photography is not the only application of drones though. They have some fascinating applications in agriculture, emergency services, transportation and renewable energy (to name but a few ). So, we've wanted to build a drone for a while now and we finally bit the bullet this December by ordering our first parts. We decided to blog about our efforts because drones are often portrayed in a negative light and they can seem complicated. In reality, drones can hugely benefit society, and the technology that powers them is accessible to anyone with an interest.

What are the steps involved?

We spent most of our time researching parts and deciding which were the most appropriate for our drone. Once the parts arrived, the assembly of the frame, motors, controllers, etc. was pretty straightforward. There is some soldering involved, so that's one thing that typically cannot be performed at home without access to a soldering iron. We've posted much of our parts research online and will be posting more detail on the trickier assembly sections in the coming days. These posts should make the challenge of building a safe DIY drone approachable and enjoyable!

Tell us a little about the traction you've seen the project get?

The blog is about a month old now and we’re getting about 700 weekly visitors. I reckon only 650 of those are from us, so we’re really happy with how fast it's growing! On a serious note, everyone we've talked to has been excited by and supportive of the project. Actually, our friends in Exerwise have just committed to building their own drone alongside us, which is a great stamp of approval to receive!

What are the plans for drone garage?

In the short term, we simply want to get our drone off the ground! Once we achieve stable flight, we have plenty of ideas to hack on! It would be cool to build in image recognition so that the drone can position itself in a space autonomously or even fly in sync with other drones.. On the fun side, we'd like to formally challenge anyone reading this to build a better drone themselves and race us in a couple of months time!

For one, I accept their challenge, as do the Bank of Ireland Startlab cohort! You just never know what can come out of just discovering and really testing your abilities. Contact them on Twitter at @drone_garage, online at dronegarage.co, you just never know.

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