KNYSNA NEWS - They are young, dynamic, creative, super hardworking, thinking out of the box and living in an orbit of upward projecting inspiration most inventors only dream of reaching.
Although not many locals outside the technological field may know that highly innovative drones are being built right here on our doorstep, when Duran de Villiers of SteadiDrone was awarded the Sanlam Outstanding Achievement Award at the recent Sanlam Knysna Awards on Thursday, November 6, people took note.
Something about the energy around the dynamic young couple, Duran (30) and Alexa (32) de Villiers, makes them a real inspiration, but without the hype. They are humble and easygoing, looking more as if they might soon be on their way to the forest rather than managing a team of young technical entrepreneurs who have placed their products and their brand on the cutting edge of this specialised industry worldwide.
"Alexa, I couldn't have done any of this without you," De Villiers said as he took to the stage at Simola Hotel to receive the award. Last year SteadiDrone won the South African Business Technology Innovation Award for 2013, which saw them invited to Italy as finalists.
There is something vibrant and geekishly exciting about walking into a workspace in Knysna Industrial which immediately reminds one of the modern chill-out working environments where Bill Gates began what would eventually become an empire.
This self-funded company, which is currently one of the leaders in its market internationally, began with the way Duran' view things. It also began with a life-changing friendship with a beautiful girl who he has now been happily married to for almost ten years. It may be argued that building drones - which allow all types of cameras to be mounted onto what is essentially a flying tripod - is an exact technological manifestation of Duran's take on life. He is someone who does not see limitations but who "finds passion for the things he does" and who is constantly in a zone of technological inspiration "looking at finding solutions from a higher level". From that height, innovation is in constant flow, simply needing to be tapped into. An altered viewpoint from most.
De Villiers, who had earlier immigrated with his family to New Zealand, took the risk of returning to Knysna to pursue the girl who once took guitar lessons from him. He was only 18 years old and two years later the couple got married. Using the experience he had built up making 200 DSTV productions for a local church, he took the next step.
In 2012, the couple began a small media production company, Motion Pixel.
"I discovered that the technology I wanted to offer clients to get footage that was unattainable unless one used remote control helicopters, wasn't available," explains Duran.
Realising there was a gap in the market for a product that would address this frustration, SteadiDrone emerged as Duran's brainchild three months later. Today the De Villiers' company is rapidly becoming one of South Africa’s most exciting technological exports and had a R14-million turnover in its first financial year in 2013.
Duran began to design and develop their first drone, which he conceptualised and built himself.
“I immediately fell in love with the technology and it kind of just snowballed from there." Within months, SteadiDrone had its first unit available for sale and within a year De Villiers transformed his media production company into a drone manufacturer. SteadiDrone now has resellers in South America, North America, Canada, the UK, Europe, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.
“I taught myself everything I know about the technology,” he says. He now spends most of his time on expanding their products and establishing their brand. They currently market a range of drones and will be launching a new one at the end of this month. The drones, which are gaining in popularity and able to outcompete many pricey overseas brands, are used for anything from aerial photography for filming, commercial shots, real estate and farms, 3D-mapping, inspecting power lines and even anti-rhino poaching units.
"We have always trusted God!" enthuses a visibly proud Alexa.
Watch this space as their faith and hard work are bound to unfold in a destiny of inevitable success!
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ARTICLE: ANOESCHKA VON MECK, KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD JOURNALIST
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