TWO FIFOs with a love of gadgets and a doting granny have seen a business started in a garage in Fremantle literally take off.
And the sky’s the limit for Elk Fish Robotics, which incidentally has no elks, fish or robots—but sells drones and now has seven employees.
The company was founded by husband and wife team Tony and Michelle Fifield and their FIFO mate Francis King
Ms Fifield says she’d like to have an interesting story about the company name, “But business partner Frank went online to look for something with robotic in it and Elk Fish came up.”
The shop sells a range of drones and parts, as well as servicing and repairing them.
They range from the tiny Joey ($29), to a robust professional model worth $11,000.
The tiny Joey’s are harder to fly, but are a cheaper option for beginners, Ms Fifield says.
“You’re better off to crash one a hundred times over, than crash a $2000 one.”
EFR started when Mr King became interested in drones while using them for mapping terrain in his mining job.
He qualified for an un-manned aerial vehicle licence and it wasn’t long before his hobby became a business with his FIFO buddy Tony Fifield.
Pretty soon a manager was needed, and who better than Tony’s wife Michelle, who has a background in retail.
“I came out of retirement after looking after grandchildren,” she says.
“Since February last year I have been learning about drones, cameras, law and regulations and parts.
“It’s been the biggest learning curve of my life.”
More men than women are buying drones, but women don’t tend to crash as much.
“Too many blokes are doing the walk of shame because they didn’t read the instructions,” Ms Fifield says.
The number of drones sold in Australia is expected to double to around 100,000 by 2018.
There are plenty of regulations around their use, but no requirement to get a licence.
EFR recommends training with Jandakot airport based Interspatial Aviation, which runs weekend courses.
There’s also a “Can I fly there” app, with no-go areas clearly marked, says staffer Abraham Shapiro.
EFR only sells DJI drones, fitted with high-tech cameras, a number of which are sold to a variety of organisations, from parks and wildlife, to surf lifesaving clubs, along with TAFEs and schools: “Who use them on sports days,” Ms Fifield says.
by JENNY D’ANGER
Elk Fish Robotics
72 Marine Terrace, Fremantle