We spoke to Sean Blakemore on the issue of clone frames and what impact do they have on the fpv frame industry
Firstly what direct impact has the cloned frames had on the impulseRC Alien frame, has it effected sales of your frame? i am aware the Martian is currently made in china, and sold by several websites at between $30-$40, is the Alien frame made in china?
It would be very hard to quantify the effect on our sales, how would we calculate that? On the other hand I do think it would be naive to say that there is no effect. A great number of clones have been sold, not all of those people would have bought our product, but some of them certainly would.
We source parts for the Alien from all over the world, most pieces come from the USA, Australiaand China. We do all of the design, testing, support, QC and packing here in Australia.
Look at it this way though…
We have spent time doing research and development, we’ve tried multiple ideas, spending time testing and reworking until we settle on a design. We literally lie in bed at night thinking up solutions to problems because we care about our work. We also have marketing expenses, we spend time taking photos and producing videos, talking to pilots and getting feedback, creating websites, interacting with the community and a whole bunch of other stuff. We sponsor events, we provide flags and gates so that racing organisations can make fun days out for everyone that wants to come along. We help cover the costs of some of the top pilots, those guys are the voice of the hobby and do more good than anyone else in promoting what we do and spreading it to a wide audience. Those are the guys that got me and everyone I know involved in the first place by pushing boundaries and they deserve support. That is all additional cost for us, the Alien took two people around 4 months of full time work, this covers everything to do with starting the business until we showed a finished product. That is a lot of work, a big financial risk and significant personal sacrifice.
Now if we buy parts from a factory in China, that company is making enough profit to run their business based on what they charge us. They cover their costs, pay their staff and make profit too. Additionally there is a standard “westerner tax” which they place on top, simply because they can, we can’t source the same quality for cheaper elsewhere anyway. We import those parts from China and we pay taxes and import duties in Australia. We pay rent, utilities and yet more tax on operating an office and warehouse. We train and pay staff, we contribute to their pensions, we pay their holiday and sick leave. Every single one of our staff members are passionate pilots and fly on their lunch break. We only buy the very best materials we can find, then we pay people to QC every single piece. Anything which has surface scuffing or very minor marks on we downgrade and sell for less, anything worse than just surface marks we throw in the bin. Many people are blown away when they struggle to actually even find any marks at all on our “seconds” frames. People want our products available in their local markets through their favourite distributor. We need to work in a margin for those distributors too, they have to be able to do business as well.
Now let’s take a step back. Those guys in China selling the $40 frames… They are coming direct from the factory. They have none of the extra costs we do. They are already making profit on what they charge us (plus westerner tax!). They don’t do any research or take any risks. They only copy stuff they know is guaranteed to sell. They don’t pay extra import duties and taxes like we do, they ship them individually and directly. They don’t support the community and sponsor events. Any costs for running their business, which we have to pay on top of the parts, they already have covered in the price they would charge us. They don’t have marketing costs because they piggyback on our work and investment. They don’t QC their stuff to anywhere near the standard we do, if at all. They don’t offer support or warranty. Their shipping prices are subsidised by the Chinese authorities. They use the lowest quality materials they can get away with. Is it any wonder they can charge what they do and our price is by necessity much higher?
Then they watch the market like vultures waiting for someone to come up with something else for them to copy.
I’m not writing all of this because I want sympathy or because I think the world is unfair. What the cloners are doing is inevitable, there is no use getting angry at economics. The reason I’m trying to explain this is because there is a huge amount of misinformation on the topic. Frankly most people have no idea what is involved with running a business or why we have to charge what we do. The gap between reality and assumption seems particularly large!
Read The full 5 page interview
to view the full article in our digital magazine including the following questions.
What are your thoughts on companies copying frames such as the alien & QAV etc?
What impact would you say clone versions have had on the FPV racing industry?
What features do you think makes the alien frame stand out from the clone and why? I know this is a tricky question as the Martian appears to copy everything.
What does the future hold for impulseRC, as the Alien frame is a popular design, will there be an Alien 2 or a follow up design?