MarTech Interview with Didi Horn, Founder and CEO at SkyX

MarTech Interview with Didi Horn, Founder and CEO at SkyX

“I do believe that multiple industries are going to be affected by drones. It will not happen overnight but we do see regulation starting to catch up to the technology.”

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Hi Didi. Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at SkyX.

In the early days of SkyX, I had the privilege of setting the company’s vision, goals, and milestones, all the while assembling a team of highly talented individuals, each coming from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. Throughout, it has been my responsibility to lead and support our employees when challenges come their way, and to clear a path for them to succeed.

Fortunately, due to the ten years, I spent in the Air Force leading a variety of teams, this comes quite naturally to me. While I must admit, the challenges of running teams in a tech company are wildly different in so many ways when compared to the Air Force. Today, SkyX has some of the brightest engineering minds, talented software developers, and a brilliant operations group. SkyX’s culture encourages and appreciates diversity in all matters, and we take pride in our open-minded and open-door approach. Without my team and their tenacity, there would be no SkyX.

What is SkyX and what kind of aerial visibility features do you offer to your customers?

SkyX is the global leader for long-range asset monitoring and inspection. We deliver actionable data and high-impact reports for mission-critical assets. Currently, we are predominantly in the energy industry but have plans to expand into other areas of interest. Let me explain how we work: The path to actionable data requires that a number of different components function together seamlessly.

High-quality images are continuously accumulated by our highly autonomous aerial system. These images are then analyzed by a combination of computer algorithms and a team of data analysts. Thus, combining the best of both worlds… human + AI analysis. Reports can then be generated that outline all of the anomalies uncovered, providing organizations with the ability to make knowledgeable decisions about the condition of their assets. With ongoing monitoring, SkyX can also unlock access to predictive analytics for our customers.

When you started SkyX, what market and industries did you target?

So far SkyX has been primarily focused on the energy industry, although we do plan on expanding to other industries. When I was in the military, I used drones for a number of projects. When I took a step back I realized they were not being implemented in industries that could truly benefit from their abilities. Once I had the basis for my business, I attended a number of conferences, and listened to what executives had to say, and what they didn’t say. I discovered that the energy sector, more than any other industry, would greatly benefit by harnessing Drone technology. These companies did not have an efficient and reliable way to monitor pipelines and other remote assets. I sought to create a system that would drive operational excellence, be cost-effective, and provide safety.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use at SkyX?

My Marketing team currently uses HubSpot and Salesforce to manage touchpoints and relationships. We’re also in the process of evaluating a number of additional technologies for further alignment between the two units.

Which industries are most likely to be influenced by the new Drone Economy? How Digitization, Automation and Drone technology converge in this market?

Right now there’s a lot of buzz about drones and drone delivery. Earlier this month, UPS announced that they received FAA approval to set-up a fleet of drones to deliver health supplies and eventually consumer packages throughout the US. I do believe that multiple industries are going to be affected by drones. It will not happen overnight but we do see regulation starting to catch up to the technology. Some industries are leading the way in this revolution. Fortunately, the energy sector is one of them.

Can you identify some potential roadblocks that business owners and customers should expect when they decide to invest in a Drone system?

Currently, the biggest hurdle our customers face are the various aviation regulations involved with flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). As in many cases, the regulatory response is slower than the industry wants and needs.

Can you describe a moment in your own company’s digital journey that you’re most proud of?

Two years ago during a demonstration for a customer, we flew our system in a variety of rural terrains across the southern border of the United States. We launched our cutting-edge drone on a 60-mile stretch, and after a one hour flight provided the regional pipeline manager with over 100 critical anomalies. He had little or no knowledge about most of them before our flight. For me, it verified that our technology was successful. Not only can we decrease the danger that is brought on while monitoring a pipeline but we can also save time and provide quality data.

Where do you see the real-time AI movement within the drone industry going as we move into 2020?

As we progress towards the future, I see AI coming into play in two main areas within the drone industry:

  1. As aerial systems start to generate a vast amount of visual data, AI is imperative in analyzing and classifying all of the data produced. Beyond that, we’re seeing a huge demand from the companies we work with for predictive analytics (the ability to predict a problem long before it becomes a problem). We cannot get to this point without Computer Vision software/AI to create highly accurate data models.
  2. Commercial Drone technology is also starting to get incredibly sophisticated. We’re at the point where technology is allowing object detection to take place on the drone itself. Suddenly, AI is needed to immediately recognize and accurately classify objects like people and vehicles in real-time.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Drone business Leader?

SkyX is first and foremost an AI-Centric business. The ability to use multiple data collectors in one centralized drone system will allow decision-makers to have a better handle on the status of their assets. Secondly, safety is paramount when discussing the operation of drones in an urban environment. We can all imagine a world where thousands of drones are flying on virtual highways above our heads. Through AI and Automation, this can be done with greater efficiency, just as commercial manned aircraft do today. The sensors and software are vital components of controlling such aerial systems, and to ensure their safety. Otherwise, this will simply remain a vision.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Happiness, and a real sense of fulfillment in what you do are pillars of my leadership. I believe that if you lack both of those, no real work can be achieved and sustained for very long.

One word that best describes how you work.

Persistence (or stubbornness…)

Which superhero character or movie do you most profoundly relate to –

I don’t relate to specific movie characters or even watch many superhero movies. Historically, I see King David as a role-model who dreamed big; didn’t care for obstacles that terrified others; had his head in the sky but was well-grounded; and who paved his way from “the youngest in his family” to be the King.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

When others tell you that you cannot do something, know it is only because they were too scared to start this journey.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read

Jeff Bezos

Thank you, Didi! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Didi has no shortage of expertise when it comes to the world of aviation, aerospace and drones. He served with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) for nearly a decade (2006-2015), as both a captain and drone pilot.

Didi would be involved with drones for six years and could have easily maintained a solid and stable military career, climbing the ranks through to eventual retirement. But something inside was driving him, restlessly, beyond that predictable route. There was an entrepreneur within – who could sense the huge potential for UAVs on the civilian/industrial side long before they became a household word.

skyx logo

The SkyX Unmanned Aircraft System is the ideal platform for capturing data – ranging from infrastructure inspection to detecting hydrocarbon leaks – with great accuracy and at a reduced cost relative to manned aircraft. Our UAS has been purpose-built for inspecting and monitoring over long distances, making it the perfect choice for pipelines or hydroelectric transmission lines.

Featuring Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) technology, we can deploy from literally anywhere within an exceedingly short time frame. We do not require special launchers or other equipment; we are up and transmitting data in moments. Our software can upload a complete flight plan to the UAS, allowing us to follow a specific route – and even stop along the way to gather more data at critical locations. We can track our SkyX UAS in real-time from our ground station and capture high-resolution videos and images (and other data). Depending on the mission, our UAS can carry Infrared (IR), Hyperspectral, CCD and other sensors.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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