Business Profile

XCraft

Xcraft1

Fly into a shark tank and it’s a good bet you’ll get eaten alive. But when Coeur d’Alene’s xCraft debuted their one of a kind drones on ABC’s reality show Shark Tank last year, the outcome was bloody profitable. Entrepreneur JD Claridge and his advisor, Charles Manning, took on the show’s tough panel of sharks, or investors, and landed a sweet $1.5 million commitment to the growing company. 

Here’s the pitch: xCraft manufactures drones that differ vastly from standard quadcopters.  Their innovative designs use the aerodynamics of a fixed flying wing to help their products stand out in the crowded drone marketplace. xCraft drones have the same upright takeoff, landing and hovering capabilities of traditional quadcopters, but the wing shape means they are the only drones in the world delivering truly efficient forward flight. 

“It’s all about innovation,” says Claridge, xCraft’s CEO. “Maybe too much innovation,” he laughs, admitting that he has dreamed about flying since he was six years old. As he leads us into the Research and Development area of xCraft’s walkdown space on Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene, you can still see that little boy with big dreams. Claridge grew up and became an aerospace engineer to pursue them, but two years ago, after playing with existing drones and trying out ideas, he decided to do it on his own terms. 

“I was young and naïve, so I started building a prototype, launched a patent and figured I’d see what happened,” says Claridge.  Manning, an early mentor, urged him to take his idea to the marketplace, so xCraft launched a Kickstarter campaign hoping to raise $50,000. “We ended up raising $143,000.” It was all the proof he needed to know that he had more than just a good idea.

As JD sorts through the myriad of parts and pieces of what currently exists and what’s to come, he lights up sharing his ideas about the future possibilities for his mini-aircraft.  “The X PlusOne,” he explains, “is a hybrid drone that can take off and hover as a multi-rotor drone and then switch into fixed wing mode for flight speeds of more than 60mph.” xCraft’s Phone Drone uses your smartphone as a brain, turning it into an autonomous aerial camera enclosed in a water proof, shock proof case. Both are already available at retail giants from Amazon and Best Buy to New Egg and B and H. 

But the bigger future picture is built on the new xTwo, a drone designed specifically for commercial industries like defense and agriculture. The xTwo can fly twice as long and travel twice as far, making it efficient for mapping expeditions and search and rescue operations. One prototype of the xTwo includes a thermal or multi-spectrum camera that can even predict — with greater accuracy than the human eye — when crops are ripe or in need of certain nutrients.

xCraft’s soon to be released Rogue FPV racer drone is optimized for speed. With a 5th booster motor, this baby flies up to 100MPH, and gives fliers a full immersive experience with a point-of-view camera controlled from the ground. The Rogue is all the buzz among a legion of drone racers worldwide. While this seems nerdy or a little niche, the scene is exploding: You can even catch the Drone Racing League season on ESPN.