Production Update: One Step Closer to Delivery

We’re excited to provide an update on where we stand with production. I know everyone has been eager for this information. In advance of announcing any delivery dates, we wanted to ensure we had all of the pieces in place on our end. Thank you for your patience.

Building, testing, certifying, shipping…

First, as we recently shared, we built thirty units several weeks ago. Of these thirty units, we sent three to labs to secure the necessary certifications from Apple and CE (we’ve already attained our FCC certification). Our team has also been intensely testing seven of these units over the past two weeks, working to ensure the system is free of any issues. We sent the remaining twenty units from this initial batch to our ambassadors and beta testers, from whom you’ll soon hear an update.

Although shipping twenty units across the world (mainly to the United States, Canada, and Europe) sounds quite simple, it’s not. Several drones were returned to us by the shipping company we employed, as they ultimately required additional information and documentation to enter the countries to which they were sent. The shipping process is further complicated by the drone’s lithium-ion battery, which is heavily regulated when it comes to air transportation. But rest assured—we have our shipping efforts dialed for North America and Europe. If you live in these continents, we can ship your unit as soon it comes off the assembly line.

Because drones are considered a dual use product, they also require commercial export certification, which we have for North America and Europe. We are currently working with partners in other continents to attain this certification. Consequently, we will prioritize shipping units to North America and Europe, providing updates for other countries as soon as they become available. Please know that this is an ongoing process that we have already started. For many countries, we have completed all of the necessary steps on our end and are simply awaiting the necessary certifications and approvals.

 

The Product Validation Test Milestone

We are now manufacturing 100 units for our current milestone, the Production Validation Test (for more information on the PVT, check out our previous update). This is the final step in validating and preparing for mass production. It ensures that our manufacturing process is optimized and yields exceptional quality.

A swarm of Hexo+ ready to be tested!

A swarm of Hexo+ ready to be tested!

To bring you up to speed, here’s a rough overview of the integration steps that make up HEXO+:

  • To build electronic boards, you first need to have all of the relevant electronic components. In September, we received all of the components needed to fulfill deliveries for our backers and those who pre-ordered units. This week, we are building more than 2,000 boards. And luckily, the manufacturing process for these electronic boards is quite fast. For those of you familiar with this process, we use completely automated EMS lines and have unit controls of boards in dedicated test benches.
  • Next, you need all of the unit’s mechanical parts—essentially its plastic components. In our case, this includes six arms, a base plate, two half shelves, cables, screws, and the inserts for these screws. This last item is deceptively simple. Recently, we came to realize that the inserts we were using were not fully satisfying our specifications.A few weeks ago, we noticed that the drone’s vibrations at high speeds were causing these inserts to slip and also vibrate.We went back to the lab and did an extensive amount of testing to finally select another type of insert that met our needs. This may seem like a minor detail, but it’s indicative of the differences between a prototype and a commercial product that’s manufactured by the thousands each month. Although these delays can be a source of frustration, they are vital to ensuring the long-term quality of each unit.

Plastics… So Many Options!

hexo3-1

Similarly, we encountered an issue with the plastic we had originally selected. Mechanical engineers will tell you that when it comes to plastic, you have more than 100 options available, each with its own mechanical properties, weight, and capabilities. During the spring and summer, we worked to identify the plastic that met our specifications, one that was light and offered exceptional flights with no vibrations.

In September, however, testing with our certification labs revealed that the plastic we had originally selected didn’t meet the standards established by the CE marking for fire resistance. Consequently, we promptly took action with our partners to find new material, order it, push for better delivery dates, prepare the material, and coordinate shipping to where we inject plastic. This process is now over, as we have found and begun using the plastic that meets our desired specifications.

 

Manufacturing Process

Essentially, we are receiving all of the mechanical parts between now and November 4th for the PVT units. Then, we will begin the manufacturing process:

  • We first mount the arms with cables and propellers.
  • We attach the electronic boards on the main body, screw the GPS sensors on the top shelf, attach arms to the baseplate, and finally add the remaining shelf.
  • At this stage, we conduct an initial test of the product to ensure it functions properly.
  • Then, we add propellers and fly the unit for several minutes to again ensure everything functions as it should.
  • Finally, we put HEXO+ in its packaging, add the battery and charger, and close the box—the unit is then ready to be shipped.

Final Steps

All in all, this means that we will be ready to ship our 100 PVT units by November 11th. Concurrently, we are preparing all of our parts for mass production. This week, we started manufacturing our electronic boards, and we are aligning our schedule to ensure we have our mechanical parts to our CMS (Contract Manufacturer Service) partner by November 10th.

After we complete our PVT, we move to mass production, ramping up the number of units we manufacture each week. At this time, our manufacturing ramp up and forecast will allow us to produce all units for our backers by the end of November 2015.

On the delivery side, we’re exploring all of the potential options for helping address VAT and import taxes. Needless to say, things are a little complex—our Kickstarter project is based in the United States, our company and factory are based in France, and our invoicing comes compliments of our U.S. subsidiary. It’s a challenge to secure all of the necessary information from customs, but we’re getting there.

 

Solving Issues Along The Way

As you can see, a week with the HEXO+ team is intense. We are all fully committed to shipping you a unit as soon as possible. And this is just a glimpse at what’s on our plate. We have also dealt with a range of additional items over the past week to ensure HEXO+ is the best product possible. A few of these issues include:

  • Apple Certification—Since HEXO+ is compatible with iOS and communicating via Bluetooth, we needed to go through the MFI process (Made For iPhone). This is an extensive process, as it requires sending finalized units to certification labs to test the Bluetooth protocol and examine product specs and packaging. We started these activities at the end of July and are proud to announce they are all done. Last week, we submitted the application to the iTunes App Store. Apple is currently reviewing the application to have it available in the App Store as soon as possible.
  • Refining the Bluetooth Connection—Over the past few weeks, intense testing with DVT units exposed Bluetooth connection issues in specific cases. While investigating this further, we discovered that our packet reconsolidation piece was acting improperly in some cases, causing a loss of packets (essentially, when you split data packets while transmitting them, you need to ensure you get them together properly on the receiving side). Consequently, this compromised how HEXO+ was flying. We found the root cause of this issue and are currently working to resolve it.
  • Bug Corrections—We’ve focused heavily on this throughout the past month. Our testing since July has raised a number of issues, which we have prioritized based on their severity and addressed accordingly. No critical or major bugs remain. Today, we have only a few minor bugs open and we are confident that we will solve them by the time we ship HEXO+.
  • Lastly, we met with several key members of the DGAC (the French National Air Authority, which is the equivalent to the FAA for those of you in the United States). We discussed the capabilities of our products, where our customers can use them in France, and the evolution of regulations. Although we had no reservations, it was great to confirm that you can use HEXO+ in accordance with French regulations. Needless to say, regulations in the United States and Europe are rapidly evolving. We will update you soon on these issues.

 

Thank you for your continued support as we gear up to ship your unit. We’re committed to making the product you deserve—and we’re grateful for your patience as we enter the homestretch. We are honored to share this journey with you and can’t wait to take HEXO+ to the sky.

We look forward to being in touch.

 

Antoine

Comments/Discussions

  • I’m one of the backers but don’t need this drone anymore. I’m selling it at the kickstarter price. Contact me to get it…

    • I want one. What’s your status?

      • Hi,

        I had a buyer yesterday and asked for a change in the delivery address, but the buyer i had for the drone just told me he don’t want it anymore.
        So, if i can retain it and have it in hand, will refund the guy and will have one available at a great bargain on the regular price !

      • Hi,

        Yes, drone is still available.
        They are starting to ship, but I just don’t need it anymore.
        I did not received it yet so maybe i can make them change the delivery address so you can receive it directly from them. 😉

        Drone Hexo+ with 3D Gimball

        Control via: iPhone

        let me know if you are interested.

      • SOLD. Thanks…

Antoine
Antoine is a co-founder and our flag-bearing CEO, making sure we know where we're going, we deliver on time and we have the most epic team in the biz. Plus tons of stuff that have to do with management, finances, administration, which most people consider wouldn't consider fun. He does.