Drone Forward Incorporated has finished another successful Drone and Robotics Entrepreneurship Course! At the end of each course, DFI likes to acknowledge the student who showed the most drive and enthusiasm for learning. In the latest course, one student stood out as our Spotlight Student and blew DFI away with his ideas and growth, James McCain.
James is currently 13 years old. His concept, Solar Drones, looks to create solar-powered batteries that would provide unlimited flying power for drones. With this idea, James hopes to impact industries that help deliver medicine across the world. He also thinks his idea could benefit the agricultural drone industry, as well as retail services like Amazon and delivery services like UPS.
We spoke to James recently and asked him a few questions about his project:
Q: What got you interested in drones and engineering?
James: I’ve always been fascinated with technology - how it works, how it improves everything. When I was 8 or 9, I saw Battle Bots and that’s what really got me into robots.
Q: What inspired your idea for Solar Drones?
James: Two of my idols are Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. I know that both are doing stuff with drones, but Elon Musk’s biggest thing is Tesla, and that’s all electric. So, thinking about electric stuff brought me to solar energy because it’s a clean and easy way of getting solar power. I figured if drones were in the sky, it made sense for them to rely on [solar] energy.
Q: One of the things that stood out to us the most during this course was your financial awareness. In your pitch, you listed the amount of money it would take to develop this concept. How did you decide on that amount?
James: I do a lot of research on hypercars, so I know how much they cost. I also know that solar panels are very expensive, and they’re very big. You would have to get smaller panels, and the technology is not there yet for the amount of power you would need. I got that number by looking at the prices of drones and current solar panels.
Q: Do you see any challenges with this idea?
James: I think that solar power technology is going to be the biggest problem. We have small solar panels for battery packs, but they’re not that powerful. They’ll charge a small phone within hours, and if you have a large drone that’s drawing a lot of power, you need small solar panels that will produce more energy than the motor puts out. However, a lot companies are working to improve that technology. It’s all about improving what they have created, and as time goes on, we’ll have that technology.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from this course:
James: The biggest [takeaway] was the refinement process. Your idea is narrowed down along each step. Even if you thought you had it pretty narrow, it kept getting smaller and smaller. In the end, you had something to present. You had a concept instead of an idea.
We also spoke with James’s mother, Marie, and asked for her thoughts about the program:
Q: How did you hear about the Drone and Robotics Entrepreneurship Course at Drone Forward?
Marie: I connected on Facebook with someone who I went to elementary school with. He had posted about Drone Forward, where you could buy this drone kit and get into this course for free, and they would teach you how to put together the drone. James had wanted a drone for a really long time. So I thought, let me check this out.
By the time I responded, they had run out of spots. But, I got on Jesse’s email. At the end of the summer, when [Jesse] was doing this next entrepreneurship course, I saw it right away. I told James he could try for this class, but he’d have to write an essay... For James, sitting down to write an essay is not always the easiest. But, he did it! And then he got in!
Q: What made you decide to enroll in the Drone Entrepreneurship Course specifically?
Marie: James has always been a big idea type of kid. Creating business and creating a product was always something he’s been interested in... I had a feeling that it was going to be a quality program. We had just started school again and James was really hating remote learning. He came out of that [Drone and Robotics] class so jazzed and excited! He was like, “this is the best thing I’ve done!”
Drone Forward is incredibly proud of all that James has accomplished throughout this course and his teachers are super excited to see where he takes his ideas in the future.
Congratulations, James, on being our Spotlight Student for the Drone and Robotics Entrepreneurship Course 2020!