Flyability: safe drones for inaccessible places
- Case studies
About the Company
Flyability is a Swiss company building safe drones for inaccessible places.Their collision-tolerant drone is unique, as it can fly in complex and confined spaces and in contact with humans, because it has a surrounding cage that protects it. They call it Elios.
The idea to develop a caged drone was born after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Adrien Briod, the co-founder, envisioned how a collision-tolerant drone would assist in managing such dangerous situations. Yet, very soon he and his team discovered that their drone can perform many different jobs, for different types of customers.
So, where should they begin building their business?
The answer is definitely dazzling, because there are numerous options. That is exactly where the Market Opportunity Navigator comes in handy.
Step 1 – Generating a Market Opportunity Set
The first step of the process enables you to deliberately take a step back and think broad. It begins with characterising your core technologies or unique abilities in their own right, to help you uncover different applications of these abilities, and different types of customers who may need them.
Worksheet 1 – Generating the Market Opportunity Set
The drone that Flyability develops has unique accessibility due to the decoupled and light protection cage that surrounds it. It can fly or roll on any surface, and will actually be able to operate in a wide range of temperatures and pressures. It will be piloted manually with an on-site video screen, even in very dark, smoked or dusty environments, but only for a limited duration due to battery limitations. Lastly, it can carry an automated, fully adjustable imagery system, with HD and thermal recordings that can be streamed online and analysed offline.
Flyability’s unique drones will therefore be able to inspect and explore inaccessible places – regardless of how complex and confined they are, thus avoiding the need to send humans to dangerous environments.
These unique abilities can be utilised for many different applications, including inspections, surveillance, deliveries, or entertainment – to name a few.
At its early stage, however, the company decided to examine those applications where it can bring real value from the start, including inspections of complex industry machineries, inspections of difficult-to- maintain infrastructures, and also security or search and rescue applications. As detailed in Worksheet 1, these applications can serve many types of customers.
After an initially rough screening, Flyability’s team decided to further examine those market opportunities that seemed more reachable, and especially those that mainly require in-door navigation (to suit the expected initial limitations of the drone).
Their Market Opportunity Set included five options
Step 2 – Setting the Attractiveness Map
The team was then ready for the next step, using Worksheet 2 to evaluate each of these possible market opportunities and placing them on the Attractiveness Map. This systematic evaluation examines each opportunity on two dimensions:
- The overall potential for value creation
- The overall challenge in capturing this value
Worksheet 2 – Evaluating market opportunity attractiveness
As an example, let’s look at how Flyability evaluated one market opportunity in their set: the inspection of thermal boilers in power plants.
Plants that convert heat energy into electric power, include huge boilers and super-heaters operating under extreme temperatures. These facilities must be inspected periodically, involving work at height, rope access, sky climbing, or scaffolding. Implementing safety measures, bringing in and installing inspection equipment and performing the actual inspection manually are not only lengthy processes that result in several days of shutdown, but also expose workers to high risks. Replacing a manned intervention with a collision-tolerant drone can thus bring significant value to these energy plants, allowing important savings in time, cost and safety.
The unique value that this drone can bring creates a ‘super-high’ compelling reason to buy. The market volume is quite big (there are about 100000 plants worldwide), and the economic viability is high, due to large expected margins and customers’ ability to pay. The overall potential was therefore estimated as ‘high’.
As for the challenge, the firm already had the know-how for developing the drone, and estimated both the implementation obstacles and the time to revenues as ‘mid’, taking into account the distribution requirements and the length of a sale cycle. The external risks seemed low, because competition is limited and success is not dependent on other parties. The overall challenge was therefore estimated as ‘low-mid’.
Overall, this seemed to be an attractive market opportunity, located in the Gold-Mine quadrant of the Attractiveness Map.
In a process that took few weeks, Flyability’s team assessed their other target markets in a similar manner. It was then possible to depict all these market opportunities on the Attractiveness map, to visually gauge and compare their value.
Step 3 – Designing the Agile Focus Strategy
Once they felt confident with the evaluation results, Flyability’s team could then use Worksheet 3 to design their Agile Focus Strategy. This strategy clearly defines your primary focus, and a smart portfolio of Backup and Growth options that you will keep open- to make sure you maintain your agility over time.
Worksheet 3 – Designing your Agile Focus Strategy
Examining the Attractiveness Map showed that inspecting boilers and heaters in energy plants was the most attractive market opportunity for FlyAbility at this stage. It offers a clear value proposition to a large-volume market, and encounters the least amount of challenge for becoming successful. Hence, the team decided that this will be their Primary Market Opportunity.
Once set, it was time to examine possible Backup and Growth options that will be kept open to mitigate risk and ensure maneuverability.
Three market opportunities were relevant candidates:
Inspections of storage tanks in the oil & gas industry – while the product was only somewhat related, as it required the ability to work in explosive areas, the markets were relatively close, especially since they shared the same distribution channels for non destructive testing equipment. Overall, this opportunity is suitable for future growth, and hence was kept open.
Inspections of vessels in the maritime industry – Although some stability improvements will be required, the product was tightly related. Yet, the customers only shared some similarities. Overall, this opportunity is also suitable for future growth, and hence was kept open.
Intelligence surveillance for police forces – This is the most unrelated opportunity. The product of course shares some similarities, yet the customers are completely distant: they don’t value the same benefits, and don’t share sales channels or word-of-mouth. In general, this opportunity bears different risks than that of the primary market, and hence was suitable to become a Backup option.
The last examined opportunity – Inspections of nuclear rooms in energy plants – was placed in storage for now, as it bears unique challenges of complying with radio-active environments, for a relatively low- volume market, making it the least attractive option.
Flyability’s Agile Focus Strategy was now set, and can be depicted on the Dartboard:
This strategic choice provided a clear marketing roadmap and a clear technological roadmap for Flyability’s managers. It enabled them to set the right development priorities, build the relevant networks, and design the proper marketing materials.
Moreover, the team had now the right skills for applying a well structured decision making process whenever it was time to rethink their strategy.