Drones Plus landed in Santa Clara a little over six months ago–opening August 14, 2015–and is already flying high.
“Our products are pretty hot!” says Armin Monajemi, manager of the Santa Clara store at 2060 Duane Ave. “We’ve been profitable from our very first month in business.”
With fifteen retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada, Drones Plus claims to be the first and largest drone retailer in the world–impressive for a company just founded in 2014.
“We’ve expanded aggressively. The fast-growing UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle)/drone market has allowed us to have enough cash flow to expand and remain profitable,” says Monajemi.
Riding the upward air current of holiday drone sales, by the end of December 2015, its supply of drones nationwide had been depleted.
The drone is a pilotless plane guided by remote control or navigated automatically by pre-programmed software. It varies in shape and ranges in size from one that fits in the palm of a hand to the MQ-4C Triton surveillance drone with a 130-foot wingspan, to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2017 by manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
Monajemi explains that Silicon Valley is a hub for drone research and development, with as many as 30 startups developing drones. Though initially just for military use, they are now available to hobbyists and for commercial applications.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the most common commercial uses are (in order) photography, inspections, film/cinematography, surveying, videography, agriculture, real estate, mapping, research, monitoring, television and utilities.
At Drones Plus, the main market is hobbyists and photographers, but Monajemi filled a recent order of 100 drones to inspect cell towers. Drones Plus has the talent to customize drones for all applications but military.
“We specialize only in drones and know about what we’re selling,” says Monajemi. Drone rental is also available.
Beyond sales, Drones Plus provides service, briefing purchasers on drone operation and FAA regulations. Drones can’t be flown within a five-mile radius of an airport or above 400 feet. Anyone flying a drone over 0.55 pounds must pay $24.99 to register it before its first flight at www.federaldroneregistration.com.
“You can cause a lot of danger by using one inappropriately,” says Monajemi. “Or, at the least, crash it.”
A study by Bard College (www.dronecenter.bard.edu), reported 921 near collisions between drones and manned aircraft from December 2013 through September 2015. Ninety per cent of the incidents were because the drones were in restricted airspace.
Monajemi, who is an instrument-rated, single-engine aircraft pilot and FAA certified flight instructor, will soon offer a drone piloting class. He recommends that beginners develop their skills with a starter drone costing about $50 before buying a more sophisticated model. When someone does crash a drone (usually into a tree), Drones Plus offers repair service.
Drones Plus sells the popular DJI Phantom drone, available in different models for under $1,000. The Phantom is made in China by SZ DJI Technology Co., which is the world’s largest commercial drone manufacturer.
“I’ve been playing with model airplanes since I was a kid. I’m passionate about aviation,” says Monajemi, who is a mechanical engineer with a B.S. Degree. “I see drones as the future of aviation.”
“We’re sitting on a gold rush era with different applications being introduced every day. By 2025, we won’t be able to imagine living without drones.”