If you’ve been in the drone industry long enough, chances are you’re familiar with Jon McBride, aka “Drone Jesus.” Besides having a history of building drones for the likes of Digital Defense Surveillance, and over 30 years of experience with builds, in general, he’s helped countless individuals scale their drone businesses by educating them on the right equipment for their specific needs. He also trains on best practices for running safe + efficient operations through his business, RMUS.

I got to meet Jon at InterDrone in 2018 and catch up with him recently. Have questions on more intricate matters, including thermal applications? You’ll find him in forums such as Commercial sUAS Remote Pilots sharing his wisdom and helping others.

1) What is your background? How did you become interested in drones?

I have been building RC planes, helicopters for over 30 years. My initial interest was to create purpose with the machines I built, while still maintaining the love for my hobby. I soon found the need by public safety, cinema, SAR (search and rescue) to continue developing and working with manufacturers to make the best for their use cases.

2) Tell us about RMUS.

RMUS (Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems) was founded in 2013. I was initially hired to run a local “Drone Shop? here in Utah. Over time, we found the need to work closer with enterprise customers and took steps to run RMUS as a separate company. We don”T only provide hardware, but have created training, maintenance, support, and program management. We were the first Enterprise Dealer for DJI and maintain a solution-centric approach to our customers, not just moving boxes.

3) What are the most in-demand services you provide?

Tech support and management. The drone industry is very difficult. Many run out to buy equipment, get their 107. But they lack the time to get to know the equipment and deploy/create deliverables without good training and program management. We try to provide the best solution for the use case or application.

4) Has RMUS been affected by the pandemic?

We have. But here in Utah, its been very mild. We took steps to limit staff contact and only running on skeleton crews. We have seen the drop in purchases and in-person training. Customers have delayed training for a few months, but we’ve pivoted to provide online or virtual training when requested.

5) Do you think COVID-19 has had a positive or negative impact on the industry in the long run?

For single Drone Service Providers, I have seen both. I think it depends what market/vertical you were in when it started. Many have had a negative impact because of who they work for. Although, the inspection industry seems to be doing very well. Most operate as individuals or very small crews to complete a job in remote areas.

6) You put yourself out there online a lot. What has been the most effective form of promotion to drive awareness to your business?

Well?..I use Facebook a lot. I never intended to be seen as the “Drone Jesus? of the industry. I try to help when I can and it’s amazing so many people are proud to show me what they accomplished. FB is a very easy platform to share and show knowledge. We do other marketing as well on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. Social networks are very powerful, good or bad.

7) How did you hear about InterDrone Expo?

InterDrone was one of the first shows where we had a booth. Because Las Vegas is not too far from me, it makes it easy to attend. It’s also one of the cheaper shows to attend. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it draws in a lot of new blood to the industry. Companies with new technology, end users with little drone experience, academic people that are looking to solve problems, I’ve seen it all at InterDrone. It’s a great show for newcomers.

8) What did you like most about the conference?

New blood. New tech, new end users, new ideas, networking.

9) What advice do you have for anyone starting out in the drone industry?

EDUCATION!! Learn everything you can and continue learning. With how fast this industry moves, you do not want to be left behind. This does not mean go out and buy a new drone every time one is released, but creating a good business model or defining SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) when starting a program helps a ton!

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