Peter Downey, Keith Tracey and Ian Kiely (Drone Consultants Ireland) with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Peter Downey, Keith Tracey and Ian Kiely (Drone Consultants Ireland) with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

A Dun Laoghaire man’s business, that he set up from his sick bed, is flying high after scooping a prestigious award.

Ian Kiely’s Drones Consultants Ireland company has just been announced as the winner of the 2018 European Satellite Navigation Competition, dubbed the ‘Space Oscars’.

The 41-year-old told Dublin Gazette he is feeling overwhelmed by it all. “I’m still struggling to take it all in! We’re the first Irish team to ever win it. It’s really exciting. It’s opened a lot of doors,” he says.

Ian worked for years as a hotel manager, then as a catering manager at Microsoft, and then he qualified as a project manager.

In 2010 he got badly injured and had two knee surgeries. In 2014 he had more knee surgeries and got shingles on top of everything.

He spent eight months in bed and four months recuperating. It was during that time his drone business developed.

“My friend was talking to me about drones and I thought ‘what’s this drone thing.’ I started looking into it.

“I spoke to the Department of Social Protection a couple of times and eventually they gave me the back to work allowance.

“When you’ve lost everything, and you’re really injured it shows your prospective on everything.

“I was 37 and I thought I had to get back on top somehow otherwise I was going to be left behind. I think that helped with the drive and determination.”

Ian then worked hard and qualified as a drone operator. Within a year of qualifying, Ian and two friends rented the RDS and put on a Drone Expo with 1,800 people showing up. The next one 2,500 people showed up.

From there he continued to experience success. He worked on different drone projects with the likes of the Fire Brigade, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Dublin City Councils.

He then started thinking about fires and disasters around the world and what he and his team could build drones to help monitor them.

Describing their product, Ian said: “If we were to drop five of our units around the Californian wildfires, we would be able to see every inch of the fire in real time and zoom in from 10 kilometres away and guide a lost person out. And we can stay there for 500 hours.”

Ian and his team Peter Downey and Keith Tracey are now looking to build prototypes and are seeking investment.

Ian has already taken home numerous awards and he credits the State, his family, friends and colleagues for their help and encouragement along the journey.

“Lots of good people were believing us and pushing us. Annemarie Phelan heads up Media Cube [in IADT in Dun Laoghaire]. She has been an amazing support.

“Even when I didn’t believe in what we were doing she’s be banging on our doors saying, ‘get that finger out!’ We wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.”

There is no stopping this passionate entrepreneur and no doubt he will continue to experience further success.