Up Sonder

Marketplace for Drone Pilots

Company Information






Los Angeles, CA

Up Sonder is an online marketplace for booking drone services.

Specifically, its platform gives businesses access to qualified, licensed, insured drone pilots. Companies pay these pilots to complete drone-assisted tasks such as surveillance, inspections, and data collection.

Countless industries including construction, oil & gas, agriculture, insurance, 3D mapping, and real estate need to gather aerial data so they can properly inspect, monitor, protect, and review assets.

To lower the substantial costs of gathering such data, businesses today are increasingly turning to drones.

As a result, Goldman Sachs projects the drone services market will reach $13 billion by 2020.

But the commercial drone sector is complicated. Between certifications, regulations, insurance, flight planning, and maintenance, companies are left confused about how to get started.

Up Sonder is providing a solution. Its marketplace enables companies and individuals to enlist drone services from a community of qualified pilots. The company calls itself “The Airbnb of the drone industry.”

Through Up Sonder’s platform, companies can search for pilots and book services directly.

All piloted drone missions are insured, all drone pilots are commercially licensed, and all drones are legally registered.

Pilots choose their own rate and work hours, and can accept or reject any booking. In addition, they can create a page showcasing their work history, expertise, and skillset.

Up Sonder earns 15% from each booking by charging a 10% service fee to the client, and a 5% service fee to the pilot. There’s also a $7 booking fee.

Using this pricing model, if a pilot sets his rate at $200 per hour and a client books services for three hours, the client will be charged $667. From that, the pilot will receive $570 and Up Sonder will receive $97.

By using this service, companies save money — before, if an oil & gas company wanted aerial photos of a pipeline, it had to hire a helicopter, which can cost nearly $1,000 per hour. Now it can hire a drone for a fraction of that price.

In addition, tasks are completed much more quickly. For example, according to a recent study from Brasfield and Gorrie, a privately-held construction company, surveying a 60-acre construction site would take 2 to 3 weeks using traditional methods, versus just 1 to 4 days using drones.

In June 2017, Up Sonder completed Y Combinator's online startup program. Y Combinator is an accelerator program for early-stage companies whose alumni include Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit.

The company released a beta version of its initial marketplace in January 2018. Since then, it's attracted more than 2,000 members and drone pilots in more than 750 cities.

Notable customers include ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), which reported that Up Sonder’s service “exceeded our expectations,” and Chevron Phillips, the chemical company which noted, “For drone services, Up Sonder is the only way to go.” Additional customers include Uber and Coldwell Banker.

Up Sonder is currently developing an additional marketplace. It will provide one-click access to autonomous drone services — everything from deliveries to inspections to home security.

In addition, the company plans to build a network of charging stations to power autonomous drone operations. The initial stations will be built directly onto the rooftops of the company’s customers.

Up Sonder will offer software to manage all aspects of these autonomous operations. This includes blockchain technology to assist with payments, and artificial intelligence to monitor tracking, landing, wireless charging, and flight routes for each drone.

Finally, the company is testing precision-landing technology with low-cost GPS. This will make it possible for a fleet of autonomous drones to use the charging network to increase flight time and serve more customers.

From this additional marketplace, sources of revenue could come from drone service transaction fees, wireless charging fees, and annual subscription fees for third-party drone services providers.

Team Background

Sung Moon Kang - Chief Technology Officer

Sung is an expert in the areas of aerospace guidance, navigation, and controls.

For more than a decade, he served as CEO and President of SySense, a research company focusing on guidance, navigation, and control in aerospace applications.

Throughout his career, he has worked for several notable aerospace companies, including NASA, Boeing, DARPA, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Air Force.

Sung earned a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics from Yale University, a Master’s in Aeronautics & Astronautics from Stanford, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from UCLA.

Nhattrieu Duong - Engineer

Nhattrieu oversees Up Sonder’s research into the areas of aerospace guidance, navigation, and controls. In addition, he is responsible for writing the software the company will use in its Marketplace 2.0 which is under development.

Nhattrieu has previously worked for aerospace companies including NASA, Boeing, DARPA, and the U.S. military.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree from California Institute of Technology and is finishing his Ph.D. at UCLA.

Derek Waleko - Co-Founder & CEO

Derek is an experienced commercial drone pilot, having flown all over the world.

Prior to starting Up Sonder, he worked for the South Korean government, specifically in the country’s mergers and acquisitions department.

Derek earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from Texas Tech University.

Isaac Nabors - Co-Founder & President

Isaac manages the day-to-day operations at Up Sonder.

He has a background in physical therapy, having spent three years as a physical therapist for Dallas Midtown Physical Therapy.

In addition, he spent nearly eight years as a physical therapist at the Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation.

Isaac earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Texas Tech University, and his Doctorate from Andrews University.

Joe Christian - Content & Research

Joe has an extensive background in writing and editing.

Prior to joining Up Sonder, he was the Lead Copywriter for Gibson Overseas, a company producing dinnerware and cookware.

In addition, he served as an English lecturer at Beijing Normal University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, and the Central University of Finance and Economics.

Joe earned a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and Business Management from Temple University.


Y Combinator

Seed-stage accelerator whose alumni include Scribd, Reddit, Airbnb, Dropbox and Stripe