Optron recently acquired the Gatewing Dealership for Southern Africa.
The idea for designing an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) originated from a doctoral dissertation in aerodynamics by the company’s CTO, Peter Cosyn. Maarten Van Speybroeck, operations director, was involved with this idea as subject for a thesis. Working on the design of a lightweight UAV, Peter soon discovered the great potential in making a fully automatic UAV for commercial purposes. A little later Peter met Maarten Vandenbroucke, present managing director, at a meeting of the organisation for young entrepreneurs, BRYO, where Peter started talking about his UAV. Maarten was immediately fired by the concept for this UAV system; they began brainstorming on the possible applications, and decided ‘let’s do it!’
Van Speybroeck also jumped onboard, and they started to shape the concept and design of a revolutionary UAV system. In the meanwhile, they convinced private investors to inject capital that made it possible to further develop the product and to start building a professional company around it. After two years of research and design, the X100 UAV was born and officially launched at the Intergeo exhibition in October 2010 in Cologne, Germany. The interest in the X100 exceeded all expectations, and many enquiries started pouring in from potential buyers.
Building on Success
Such success has led the company to grow dramatically from three to twelve employees in just one year. To keep up with production, Gatewing is still hiring technical staff like engineers and production assistants. The company mission is to produce the world’s best, most used, rapid terrain-mapping tool. By making the technology highly accessible in price and ease of use, Gatewing wants to revolutionise the surveying and mapping industry. The company is also constantly improving the quality of the system, and processing and analysis software. With its low footprint, high results orientation, Gatewing is able to serve many new applications, such as disaster management, infrastructure inspection, precision farming, construction project planning, corridor mapping, and so on.
The Gatewing philosophy is to stand out from the competitors in terms of professionalism. The aim is not to sell an UAV here and there, but to really nurture a professional company with a worldwide base of value-added resellers that customers can rely on. Gatewing also adopts a professional attitude in its marketing communication, as this is the business card shown to the outside world. Good, clear communications with customers and potential customers creates confidence in both product and the company, the key to future success.
Even though it is hard to avoid some sort of hierarchy in a company with three founders, Gatewing is a strong, relatively flat organisation that enables it to function as one strong team where everyone is connected to each other. Both technical personnel and commercial staff work together very closely.
Today Gatewing has thirteen systems sold in various countries throughout the world. The buyers vary from surveying companies to dredging companies to precision farmers etc. These customers are the so-called ‘early adopters,’ wanting to be the first to invest in new technology. Once other companies see the benefits enjoyed by early adopters, they will follow suit. With the sales we have already achieved this year, we are on track to achieve our objectives of selling forty systems by the end of 2011.
Gatewing is now putting a lot of effort into the development of a worldwide base of value-added resellers. Such a network makes it possible to better serve end customers, offering the necessary training and after-sales support they require. Currently there are international dealers in Japan, Russia, China, Australia and Chile. These countries have been strategically selected to be the first for market development, as they are involved in many activities that fit well with the main applications for which the X100 was designed. For example, Japan and China are countries carrying out widespread construction planning activities, while Chile and Australia are rich in mining projects. But many more countries will join this list in the near future.
As Gatewing gains more and more operational experience from test projects in countries such as Cameroon and Oman, where the X100 is pushed to its limits, refinements can be integrated into the system so that it evolves into a constantly improving technology. A current Gatewing R&D project is to complete the integration of a fully infrared camera for monitoring the condition of vegetation.
For more info, contact:
Optron Geomatics (Pty) Ltd
Tel: +27 (0) 12 683 4500