Such great heights: What drives this drone company’s sustainability ethos?
May 31, 2023
In a recent presentation to a panel of accountants, CEO Jess Richmond, discussed the wide-ranging support Sumday provides to businesses, everything from drone operators and state-owned enterprises. The panel host posed the question, "Why would a drone company care about carbon accounting?"
To answer this question, we thought we’d go straight to the source.
Enter Andrew Davies, founder of Taz Drone Solutions, whose personal journey led him to explore the intersection of technology, sustainability and business. Born and raised in Tasmania, Davies sought opportunities to travel and experience the world. During his nearly 10 years abroad, he crossed paths with a cinematographer from Hollywood who funded his European adventures by shooting videos with a drone and DSLR camera for various clients. Inspired by this encounter, Davies envisioned a career that combined his love for travel and technology.
Upon returning to Tasmania in 2017, armed with a fresh drone licence and a desire to exit the mining industry (whose short term gigs afforded his longer-term travel stints), Davies rediscovered his affection for his home state and set out on a new career path. However, his interest extended beyond the creative aspects of drone piloting. He delved deeper, contemplating the potential impact of drones on compliance, safety, efficiency and sustainability for clients.
Davies' extensive travels instilled in him a sense of responsibility toward the environment and the community.
"I firmly believe we need to utilise current technology to create more efficient future technology."
Davies likens this to the use of horse and cart to transport materials to make the first automobiles. He found inspiration in using drones to protect people from harm and accomplish tasks in more resource-efficient ways.
Davies passionately advocates for sustainable practices and personally invests in companies developing electric vehicles and sustainable alternatives to meat. When asked why he decided to start carbon accounting, Davies responds simply, "Why wouldn't you do it?" Understanding metrics were required, he adds, “I really want to know where we’re at and what we’re outputting. As a company I want to draw a line ethically and morally and put a plan together to meet those. Carbon is just one of the metrics that will accelerate this.”
Davies stumbled upon Sumday while scrolling through LinkedIn and promptly reached out. Their collaboration began organically, with Taz Drone Solutions initially providing data from Xero to its accountants using Sumday for analysis. Within weeks, Taz Drone Solutions gained valuable insights into its emissions. Davies praises the Sumday team for their exceptional support, noting the unique challenges his company posed, such as managing a diverse array of more than 500 batteries with varying sizes and charging patterns.
The experience with Sumday has enabled Davies to make better-informed decisions and begin to develop his sustainability goals. He emphasises the significance of sustainability reporting for businesses, stating unequivocally that it will become essential for future operations, “It’ll be everything. Everything. You won't be able to do much without proper carbon mapping and data in the future.”
Taz Drone Solutions’ out of the box and industry-leading thinking is proving successful. Davies recently collaborated with Hydro Tasmania and Department of Mineral Resources Tasmania to engineer drones that could collect water samples in difficult or impossible to access areas. The subsequent monitoring ensures Tasmania’s waterways are kept safe.
A self-professed super nerd, Davies has always been a tinkerer, forever building things and fascinated by rockets. Armed with a curious mind, and an equally handy friend, the two set about to create a dining-table sized drone. With imported electronics and “bits and bobs from Bunnings,” they built a drone that proved feasible after a trial with Hydro Tas. This was a gateway to a less-intensive, more efficient service that Taz Drones now offers to clients.
The pursuit of improvement and sustainability lies at the core of Davies' drive.
Taz Drone Solutions actively collaborates with clients to improve efficiencies in various areas. Recently they embarked on fuel reduction burning projects with Tas Parks which will result in the decreased use of helicopters in future. In reducing the use of helicopters or even ground crews in potentially unsafe areas, while utilising battery power, Taz Drones hopes to decrease the amount of fossil fuels required to complete the same task, while offering a cost benefit to the client. Davies explains, “We sent in our drones to achieve the same thing and used a drone that's running off a 266 watt battery that probably cost 20 cents to charge.”
Davies continues, “Just yesterday I did a job where drones pulled 850 metres of powerline cables, a job that would have normally been done with choppers. By utilising drones, the client will see a huge reduction in resources, people-power and carbon emissions.”
Looking to the future, Taz Drone Solution’s long term vision is to create sustainable products and solutions for their clients that can both remove humans from potentially harmful situations while reducing the use of fossil fuels. Based out of Sheffield, a small dairy farming town in northern Tasmania, Davies’ company is even developing products from recycled plastics, adding to its broader aim to control as much in their value chain as possible.