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Flying high: Rabih’s drone ambitions

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Rabih Bou Rashid seems to be testing the limits on how much he can achieve with drone technology. We explore his growing ambitions…

Falcon Eye Drones or FEDS was one of the first businesses in the Middle East to use drone technology for mapping and inspections. Today, it is one of the top service companies operating high-end drones and making major advances in its field. “It is not a big secret how we established ourselves as one of the top drone service providers. We always aim to deliver exceptional customer service and have developed some world class applications. We are growing at 600 per cent from last year, driven mostly by the rapid international spread of drone use. We have developed a unique application that is proving to be very effective for our clients and is now in very high demand,” beams Rabih Bou Rashid, the man at the helm of the fast-growing start-up.

The work on Rabih Bou Rashid’s drone services is in an early stage of its growth. Yet, he has been able to close multiple long-term projects with local governments: the kind of contracts that allow for financial stability and support his expansion plans. In fact, it has enabled him to set up a second office in Abu Dhabi.

Such financial stability is especially important to Rabih Bou Rashid since he hasn’t raised any external funding so far. “We haven’t had any external funding rounds yet. So far, all our funding has come from our original shareholders. We might seek additional funding next year to accelerate our expansion. We are using current funds for expansion, including hiring and would use the additional funding to accelerate this. I should add here that our shareholders are very happy with the expert, international team we have built, the quality of our work and the reputation we’ve gained.  They put a lot of trust in me as the Managing Director to lead the company in the right direction and spend their money wisely.”

Managing turbulence

Rabih Bou Rashid is working with a nascent technology so raising awareness and educating customers of its vast potential is a challenge. “We spent a long time in the beginning just explaining what drones are, what they can do and how much our services could save companies in terms of time and money. As drones have become more widely known and understood in the recent past, things have turned around and now we have many companies approaching us for our services,” he explains.

Rabih Bou Rashid adds that regulations are also a huge challenge for him. When he set up the business they were non-existent and since then there have been four or five revisions to the laws governing drones. Having to constantly adapt to stay aligned to the latest standards is proving to be costly for his young business.

He adds: “We support the need for effective regulation of drones by the government, but we would like to see improvements in the efficiency of the processes. For example, obtaining approvals to fly involves multiple authorities and the procedure takes a long time, which can cause us to lose business. The time required to receive approvals and the high cost of these permits are deterring some of the early adopters of our technology.” To get around these challenges, Rabih Bou Rashid and his team are now working closely with the relevant authorities to help improve the overall use and regulation of the technology. And, he believes his hard work and dedication has paid off. The ease of drone regulations in most countries has positively impacted investment in drones and more companies are using it to improve their offer.  

External challenges aside, he is also focusing on keeping his systems on par with the global developments. “We are constantly in training mode and regularly updating our systems. Drones are evolving at a rapid rate and continuing to bring the world’s best drones and services to the UAE and GCC is our mission. We are also partnering internationally with big names in the industry to help us maintain the high standards we aim for. We have evolved our services because of new advances in drones and related software.”

Sky is the limit

So, what’s next on Rabih Bou Rashid’s agenda?

“Our goal was always to be the number one drone company in the Middle East and we are on track. The next step is being one of the top companies across the world. We already operate in the GCC and are in talks for projects in the wider Arab world. We have plans to go international towards the end of next year or 2019.”

Given the dynamic and fast-paced nature of the sector that Rabih Bou Rashid works in, what does he reckon the future of this industry will look like four years from now? “This is a very interesting question. I truly believe that in four years we will be seeing drones buzzing everywhere: look outside your window you will see a stream of them. The technology already exists to allow the mass use of drones, the challenge is the need for effective regulation. We just don’t have the airspace for it yet nor do we have enough landing pods or parking spaces. The biggest change will be transportation, for both humans and goods. Drone transport really makes sense due to reduced congestion, reduced CO2 footprint, cheaper/faster mass deliveries. In four years, I will be flying to work in a fully automated flying machine. The industry is still in its infancy and there is so much room for growth. This region has its unique challenges, but persistence will eventually pay off,” he concludes.

Rushika Bhatia

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.