Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Developing business ideas for drone technologies
Developing business ideas for drone technologies

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.3 The Pre-Firm Takeoff and the Pre-Sales Takeoff stages

After the incubation stage, gradual increases in demand attract more entrepreneurs and companies that want a share of the growing market.

Box 2 Pre-Firm Takeoff stage

Key actors:

  • incubation actors arrange for profit
  • new actors similar to previous stage
  • suppliers
  • regulators
  • social movements


  • Technology: refinements for adding extra functionality
  • Demand: multiple product or service
  • Institutions: definition of industry identity; circumventing regulation; setting of intellectual property rights

Jump to the next stage

  • Has the industry segment developed enough knowledge for attracting a critical mass of companies?
    • Yes: Firm Takeoff
    • No: delay or abandon

Most of the actors at the ‘Pre-Firm Takeoff’ stage aim to boost demand by increasing the visibility of their product or service, either through advertising or through exhibitions and demonstrations to show the service or product’s benefits.

Demand grows as more users are convinced about the benefits and affordability of the product. There is often a wide variety of innovations at this stage, as well as different products and services. For example, some entrepreneurs may not sell drones directly to farmers, but they may offer integrated, drone-based services for a fee. Services include agronomic monitoring based on advanced data analysis to improve crop health and reduce the use of pesticides. In these cases, the innovations come in the software, algorithms and data analysis models (identified in Box 2 as ‘refinements for adding extra functionality’).

As market demand grows, industry segments move from the Pre-Firm Takeoff stage into the Pre-Sales Takeoff stage.

Box 3 Pre-Sales Takeoff stage

Key actors:

  • actors from previous stages
  • new actors similar to previous stages
  • complement providers (providers of products or services that complement the offer of the company)
  • new businesses funded by employees of initial companies
  • firms from threatened industries


  • Technology: redesign for cost-effectiveness
  • Demand: additional customer segments and willingness to pay
  • Institutions: shaping and responding to regulations; addressing positive and negative social attention
  • Ecosystem: scalability and cost effectiveness; introduction of complementary products and services

Jump to the next stage

  • Is there sufficient knowledge for appealing to a critical mass of customers?
    • Yes: Sales Takeoff
    • No: delay or abandon

One example of this is the use of drone applications for ‘supply chain operations’ which focuses on the final stage of the delivery process to the customer, or what’s called the ‘last-mile delivery’. At this stage, new players from established industries, such as Amazon and Uber in the case of ‘last mile delivery’, enter the industry segment (see ‘firms from threatened industries’ in Box 3). They then collaborate with drone manufacturers to invest in producing drones that are cheaper to manufacture, safer to use, and able to deliver parcels of various sizes and weight. Well known airframe manufactures such as Airbus and Boeing also invest in drone prototypes that can carry cargo or even passengers. Unless drones become cheaper and production scalable, sales will not take off.

A person crouched by a drone
Figure 10 A project member of Use Case 5 setting up one of the drone prototypes

At this stage of growth, you will see a number of complementary products and services developing into what is called an ‘ecosystem’. In a business context, an ecosystem is a network of related participants each contributing to the offer of combinations of products and services (e.g. the Google ecosystem of applications). For the drone industry, these products and services include support services in drone use, companies specialising in creating higher power batteries, and remote flying drone charging stations.