Inspired Flight Soars with American-Made Drones: Interview with Co-Founder Adam Bilmes at Xponential 2024

At Xponential 2024 in San Diego, Inside Unmanned Systems sat down with Adam Bilmes, co-founder of Inspired Flight, to discuss the company’s American-made drone innovations and the significance of their Blue UAS certification.

IUS: Adam, tell us about Inspired Flight. You’ve been in the drone industry for some time. What led you to start developing UAS platforms?

Adam Bilmes: I’m actually one of the co-founders of the business. I serendipitously ended up in the drone industry. My co-founder, Mark, who has a robotics engineering background, and I met at a tech incubator. We initially focused on motor technology, but we quickly realized there was a gap in the market for customizable and reliable drone components, leading us to develop commercial drone platforms.

IUS: That’s fascinating. So you transitioned from components to full drone platforms. Can you tell us about the significance of the Blue UAS certification for Inspired Flight?

Adam Bilmes: Inspired Flight was well-positioned to capitalize on the Blue UAS initiative because we were already committed to being an American manufacturer with a U.S. supply chain. Blue UAS has allowed us to bring critical technology back home and support the American military with domestically sourced components. It’s also expanded into critical infrastructure and other federal agencies, ensuring cybersecurity and supply chain integrity.

IUS: Does the Blue UAS certification help your industrial customers, such as those in energy or utilities, feel more confident in your products?

Adam Bilmes: Absolutely. The certification reassures our customers that our drones have passed rigorous supply chain and cybersecurity testing by the DoD. This trickles down to industries like utilities and critical infrastructure, who start their search with the Blue UAS list, knowing they are getting high-quality, vetted aircraft.

IUS: You mentioned scalability and cost. How does Inspired Flight ensure its products remain competitive against lower-cost alternatives from countries like China?

Adam Bilmes: While our products are more expensive due to the American supply chain, we aim to be within a 20-25% higher cost range. Our focus is on delivering reliable and capable products that provide long-term value. As the industry scales, our enterprise customers understand the importance of reliability and support, which outweighs initial cost concerns.

IUS: Let’s talk about your platforms. Can you describe the IF1200 and the new IF800 Tomcat?

Adam Bilmes: Inspired Flight focuses on medium and heavy-lift drones. The IF1200 carries up to 20 pounds, and the new IF800 Tomcat, named after the F-14 Tomcat, can carry up to 6.5 pounds. These platforms are designed for quick deployment and high reliability, with features that cater to public safety, defense, and industrial applications.

IUS: What makes your drones particularly suited for carrying expensive and sophisticated payloads?

Adam Bilmes: Our drones are built with ruggedness and precision in mind. They undergo extensive quality control to ensure they can safely carry payloads worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. We focus on seamless system integrations, offering a variety of sensors, including RGB, EO/IR, thermal, multispectral, and LiDAR, to meet diverse operational needs.

IUS: Which industries are adopting Inspired Flight’s technology the most, and why?

Adam Bilmes: Our primary markets include federal defense, electric utilities, and oil and gas. These sectors value risk mitigation and reliability. For instance, electric utilities use our drones for vegetation management, right-of-way inspections, and creating digital twins. The reliability and American-made assurance are crucial for these applications.

IUS: It’s clear that reliability and support are paramount for your customers. How does Inspired Flight ensure ongoing support and service for its products?

Adam Bilmes: We offer up to a three-year warranty on our systems and commit to supporting them for a minimum of five years. This includes spare parts, software updates, and comprehensive customer support, ensuring our customers can rely on their investments long-term.

For more information, visit Inspired Flight.