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Where technology and business collide

24 August 2017
Tech startup continues to reap benefits for mechatronics engineer

From prototype to tech startup, mechatronics engineering alumnus, Ian Conway Lamb is pushing the limits of hybrid Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Ian with a hybrid UAV

Ian's startup, Iridium Dynamics specialises in hybrid UAVs for surveying and mapping.

The recognition and awards keep coming for Iridium Dynamics, the brainchild of Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Mechatronics Space) graduate, Ian Conway Lamb.

The startup recently received $75,000 from the Queensland Government as well as $120,000 (USD) from Techstars, a leading global startup accelerator with an impressive portfolio of companies who have cumulatively raised over $3 billion. These are on top of the $25,000 Iridium secured in the TEDxSydney St George Bank Kick Start competition in 2016.

“These investments are fantastic recognition of our ambitious plans in terms of technology development as well as business strategy,” Ian says.

“If you have either a passion for business or an idea which you would like to see commercialised, you should seriously consider developing a technology business. There is more support for early-stage startups than ever before.”

Iridium Dynamics specialises in hybrid UAVs for surveying and mapping. Its UAVs have a unique characteristic - they can hover for extended periods of time, enabling useful up-close inspections, even in remote locations.

It is currently manufacturing aircraft for the purpose of inspecting large-scale infrastructure as well as focusing on asset management in the resources sector, road and rail infrastructure, and utilities. Ian believes there’s a huge opportunity for this technology in other industries, including emergency services and insurance, as well as its current applications in agriculture.

“Ninety seven percent of commercial UAVs are multirotor aircraft; the greatest limitation of these aircraft is their speed and endurance, and hence range,” he says.

“Only 3% of commercial UAVs are fixed-wing (aeroplanes). Aeroplanes have the disadvantage of not being able to hover, and the advantage of much greater range. But this statistic highlights another limitation: current regulations make it very difficult to legally fly a UAV ‘beyond visual line-of-sight’.”

“In a tech startup where you need to demonstrate technological feasibility, it’s extremely helpful to have the technical skills to build a functioning prototype yourself. Otherwise, you need to find a technical co-founder or pay for the development out of your own pocket, which can be particularly expensive for a hardware startup.”

Ian adds that his tertiary background in mechanical engineering gave him the foundation upon which to build his career.

“It gave me skills for developing almost every part of the prototype myself,” he asserts.