Hummingbird Drones, founded in 2014 by Thompson Rivers University (TRU) alumni Robert Atwood and Richard Sullivan, began their entrepreneurial journey as students, taking part in TRU Generator programs and have continued to work with us at the Kamloops Innovation Centre (KIC) ever since.
Over the last eight years, the company has grown into three brands—Hummingbird Drones (drone services), FlySmart (drone training), and Fire AI (drone software).
“We learned a lot of lessons working with KIC and the TRU Generator,” said Robert. “A valuable early lesson that comes to mind is when Lincoln encouraged us to quit our seasonal summertime jobs as wildland firefighters and pursue Hummingbird full time.”
“Without him, I’m not sure we would have done it. We loved firefighting and were graduating school and were uncertain if we wanted to give up a known quantity and paycheque. We waited until the last possible day to give notice, but with Lincoln nudging us towards starting the company under the pretense that we could always return to our old jobs if things didn’t work out, we left and never looked back.”
Their experience fighting fires provided Robert and Richard insights into needs in the industry and the untapped potential for drone usage for wildfire suppression.
Hummingbird Drones was the first company in Canada to fly drones on wildfires. The development of their proprietary infrared analysis software and drone operation expertise has led to them being the national leader in the use of drones on wildfire landscapes.
Their advice for students with big ideas? Reach out to the TRU Generator and Kamloops Innovation Centre, try to get involved in the community, ask a lot of questions and find a mentor you trust. Richard and Robert note working with KIC encouraged them to strive for some lofty goals.
Hummingbird Drones is currently working on their first international contracts and hopes to have projects lined up in both the United States and Australia by the end of 2022.
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