500below LLC has commenced operations as a peer-to-peer network of drone owners supporting other drone owners.
“Demand for drones is huge, but consumer support is awful, and new drone aviators are extremely frustrated,” says Bill Kimberlin, company founder and CEO. “After paying an average of $1,200 or more for a product up front and waiting weeks or months for it to arrive, aviators find that they can’t get anyone at the manufacturer on the phone to answer questions or help them troubleshoot problems. Reaching a live person who understands your aircraft, remote and mobile phone display combination is virtually impossible.”
500below says it will fill this customer-service gap with a platform that matches its members to other aviators. When a customer logs in to 500below’s website or future mobile app, he enters information about the drone he owns and the supporting devices used to fly it. Then, he may select from a menu of assistance categories, such as firmware upgrade, calibration issues, connection problems or flight rules.
The quality of the consumer experience is measured by a rating system of one to five stars. Any network aviator who receives a low rating will be locked out of the support network – pending resolution of customer issues and advanced training. Support aviators will also rate customers who call for support and may decide to not take calls from customers with low ratings.
“The launch of 500below is good news for drone manufacturers, as well as consumers, because we will offer manufacturers access to our network of aviators using their products. This will allow manufacturers to continue their focus on innovation and production while 500below focuses 100 percent on consumer support,” Kimberlin adds.
The company’s name is a reference to the Federal Aviation Administration’s altitude ceiling of 500 feet and below for commercial drone flights (as proposed in the agency’s rules).