Building a Better Drone Network: Leo Adams Explains Skye Link’s Unique Approach

How Skye Link Empowers Drone Pilots and Leverages AI for Superior Data Analysis.

Yuliya Sychikova
COO @ DataRoot Labs
13 Jun 2024
9 min read
Building a Better Drone Network: Leo Adams Explains Skye Link’s Unique Approach

National commercial drone services & UAS consulting startup Skye Link offers comprehensive aerial inspections, drone photography, sUAS training/consulting, and aerial mapping. They support a wide range of industries including renewable energy, utilities, construction, engineering, facilities, and commercial real estate. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Skye Link aims to make drone services easily accessible to all businesses through a streamlined platform delivering on-demand aerial data & insights in a safe, efficient and compliant manner.

Yuliya sits down with Leo Adams, Founder and CEO of Skye Link for a chat about drones, AI, autonomy and the future.

Yuliya Sychikova [YS]: How did your experience as a drone pilot influence the creation and development of Skye Link, and how does it differentiate your platform from others in the market?

Leo Adams [LA]: When I got started in the drone industry I found it very challenging to acquire the knowledge & experience necessary to break into industries like solar or utilities. There simply weren't great resources available for new pilots with a curiosity to get past the low-hanging fruit of the real estate market. There were national DSPs like Dronebase and PrecisionHawk at the time but I found those companies were paying bottom dollar to pilots and not providing the necessary support to help their pilots become successful on their own.

I found this so frustrating and saw an opportunity to create a platform to bring pilots together with resources, training, and projects so we could create a vibrant partnership network of safety-oriented professional drone pilots on a mission to create a cohesive and collaborative UAS industry.

So I founded Skye Link with this conscious capitalism mindset to provide pilots with excellent opportunities, resources, and fair compensation to help them thrive as a part of the Skye Link pilot partner team but on their own as well.

[YS]: Skye Link aims to help independent drone pilots and small businesses grow their aerial imaging businesses. Could you elaborate on the specific ways in which your platform supports pilot development and training?

[LA]: We take pride in the pilot partnerships we have forged since 2018. We have helped many drone pilots break into industries like aerial thermography for solar or commercial roofing. With all our years in the UAS industry, Skye Link has dialed in many best practices and data collection processes for various services and drone data solutions. We leverage this expertise to create standard operating procedures specific to each data collection operation and service type so we can train our pilots on these best practices and SOPs so that when they are deployed for missions they are well-equipped to execute the mission effectively.

Many of our pilots who have been trained have gone on to offer similar services to their customers and this gives the Skye Link team pride that we have been able to give pilots around the country opportunities to learn and break into various new verticals they otherwise would not have entered into (or at minimum taken significantly more time and learning curve to break into).

We have helped many drone pilots break into industries like aerial thermography for solar or commercial roofing.
Leo Adams, Founder & CEO of Skye Link

[YS]: Could you share some insights into how AI and ML technologies are integrated into Skye Link's services to enhance aerial data collection and analysis?

[LA]: AI has become all the rave recently, but Skye Link has always been focused on automating data processes and working with other partners who have similar motivations. Some of our partners offer AI solutions that we have used to streamline the early aspects of data processing such as for stockpile volumetric measurements, solar thermography anomaly detection, and wind turbine blade inspection analysis. These AI solutions allow us to swiftly turn around data products to customers with high accuracy to meet the complex needs and timeline requirements of our customers. We will continue investing in these AI solutions and forging deeper partnerships to establish ourselves as a leading innovator in the drone data solution space to stay on the cutting edge.

Skye Link operations in progress

Skye Link operations in progress

[YS]: Can you describe the typical customer profile that benefits the most from Skye Link's services, and how do you tailor your offerings to meet their specific needs given that you operate across industries?

[LA]: Skye Link has a very dynamic service offering that allows us to meet our customers exactly where they are in their UAS journey and plug in to customize our solutions to their needs. We provide full end to end turnkey drone services from mission planning, data collection, operational logistics & compliance, all the way through data processing & delivery. We work with our end customers in verticals such as energy, construction, utilities, infrastructure who look to Skye Link as their full end to end DSP.

On the other hand we have end customers with internal UAS programs as well as data analytics partners, that leverage Skye Link’s data collection services to capture high quality data nationally if/when they don’t have local resources to conduct data captures, so we step in to provide those services with our local pilots at cost effective rates. This allows us to tailor our services exactly to our customers needs and meet them where they are for the most effective partnership.

[YS]: Skye Link emphasizes conscious capitalism and values such as honesty, integrity, and continuous improvement. How do these values translate into the day-to-day operations and decision-making processes within your company?

[LA]: Skye Link focuses on establishing quality relationships with professional safety oriented remote pilots rather than trying to build the largest network possible. We have found that working with reliable partners in key geographic areas nationally allows our partners to thrive by increasing volume of work to select partners, while also giving us and our customers confidence that when Skye Link takes on a project that they will get premium quality service & results.

This trust in our team members and partners, resonates through to our customers and further to the communities they serve. This focus on providing value first through quality win-win partnerships creates a vibrant ecosystem across the value chain. Keeping quality as the priority and focusing less on financial metrics is key, but ultimately by focusing on providing that superior service, it does allow the financial piece to fall into place as a result.

Keeping quality as the priority and focusing less on financial metrics is key, but ultimately by focusing on providing that superior service, it does allow the financial piece to fall into place as a result.
Leo Adams, Founder & CEO of Skye Link

[YS]: Could you provide examples of some of the most challenging projects Skye Link has undertaken, and how your team overcame obstacles to deliver successful outcomes for your clients?

[LA]: Skye Link has undertaken many challenging projects including various R&D projects such as developing NDAA compliant solutions for a major utility company. As many in the UAS industry know, American-made solutions are more clunky and costly than the similar ones made by foreign competitors such as DJI.

Skye Link has been able to test many “Blue” drones and develop standard operating procedures to complete data collection projects meeting NDAA compliance. This R&D process and SOP development continue to be a challenge that the Skye Link team aims to move the needle on further, but have already successfully provided many outcomes for various types of aerial inspections, mapping, and data solutions.

[YS]: Looking ahead, what are your goals for Skye Link in terms of further innovation, expansion, and impact on the UAV industry?

[LA]: At Skye Link, we aim to continue innovating and staying at the forefront of streamlining drone data solutions by developing our platform, software tools, artificial intelligence, and leveraging other innovations in the space through win-win partnerships. We aim to continue being the most adaptable, collaborative national drone service provider in the marketplace and take pride that we compete with some of the largest DSPs in the space who are venture-backed, but as a bootstrapped start-up from day 1.


Yuliya Sychikova
COO @ DataRoot Labs
Yuliya is a co-founder and COO of DataRoot Labs, where she oversees operations, sales, communication, and Startup Venture Services. She brings onboard business and venture capital experience that she gained at a leading tech investment company in CEE, where she oversaw numerous deals and managed a portfolio across various tech niches including AI and IT service companies.
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