André Moura is a Portuguese entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Pro-Drone. Pro-Drone is one of the startups funded by InnoEnergy. André is “passionate about developing and implementing efficient and sustainable solutions that can help renewable energy be ubiquitously accepted and competitive. The aim is to contribute to this final goal through developing technological R&D projects that have the potential to be disruptive and implementing them.”
You are the founder and CEO of Pro-Drone. Can you tell us more about the company?
Pro-Drone is a solution consisting of vertical inspection of wind turbine blades using autonomous drones. The main goal of Pro-Drone is to reduce the operations and maintenance costs of the wind turbines, as well as improve its efficiency and safety.
Your background is in Marine Biology and Oceanography. How did you end up in the renewable energy sector?
I studied Marine Biology and Oceanography in England. However, my first job was in a Portuguese company which was engaged in the renewable energy sector, applied to the maritime field. During my time there, which lasted 6 years, I attained experience and gathered a better insight of the industry. From there on, I started raising many questions about situations and problems applied to my job, especially as far as offshore wind energy was concerned.
How did you detect the opportunity to combine both the wind and drone fields?
Firstly, I always kept an open mind to problems which could to be solved. As I mentioned before, with the experience I had acquired, I was able to detect problems within the offshore energy sector, specifically regarding the maintenance of wind turbines. I found out that the blade inspection was outdated and unsafe as it was still being performed by sending people to wind turbines and suspending them from ropes. For me, such a procedure in the 21st century didn’t make any sense. In addition, the company I was working for had many different partners, some of them operating with drones. With that being said, both worlds crossed and the idea was born. However, it was not enough to use remotely controlled drones in the inspection as they would still be fully dependent on a manual control activity; that is why Pro-Drone is focused on their autonomisation.
The concept itself is not new. How do you deal with competition?
Since the beginning of the drone concept, it was widely understood that they could lift, fly and perform these sorts of tasks. So yes, many people tried it, but right now, I believe only one other company has had the same success as Pro-Drone has internationally. Our next step is commercialisation by the end of this year .
Was there any moment you realised you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
I took a sabbatical and travelled for 10 months. During that time, I realised I wanted to do something much more relevant than a normal professional career. I wanted to do something which would make an impact on the world and of which I could be proud. So I decided I would take a chance. Actually, before Pro-Drone, I worked on four or five different ideas. Some evolved into prototypes while others didn’t reach the development phase, but I kept trying.
Pro-Drone has been recognised internationally. Why has Pro-Drone been so successful so far?
A lot of luck! And serious and competent work as well. Besides these two elements, we managed to establish key partnerships which helped us get funding and develop our projects. Another thing which helped, I believe, is the fact that the sector in which we are operating is considered “sexy” nowadays.
Any advice to becoming a “startup-er”?
By far, being resilient. But this resilience needs to be intelligent. One must believe in their idea until it is evident it requires a change. In other words, sometimes our idea will clash with different opinions. However, keep in mind that those contrary points of view are also the voices of reason. A great virtue is to listen!
By Rafael Martins
In collaboration with The CommUnity Post
Published on 10 March 2017.