We all only get one shot at being a human. Life is a great leveller, regardless of your background, and those lucky enough to have grand children might be familiar with the idea of the “Porch Test”. The concept was passed to me by my copilot while flying at 33,000ft enroute from Brisbane to San Diego in a KC-30A (a modified Airbus A330 for Air-to-Air Refuelling).

It goes like this: imagine you are 75 years old, sitting on your porch (a big thing in Brisbane) watching the world go by, and talking to one of your grand children about your life- which is now entering a less active stage. What will you be saying to them? How will you describe how you chose to live your life, and how did you choose to respond to life? Did you make the most of every day? Did you professional life make a positive impact on others and upon the world? How do you want to be remembered? What advice would you give to your attentively listening grandchild?

The porch test shows us that we should use this future memory to determine what actions to take today.

Ask yourself, what I am about to dedicate my time/resources/energy to, does it pass “the Porch Test”?

What will you tell them?

How this applies at Skybase

It takes a lot of courage to leave stable employment and knowingly go into the startup technology world. Even more so in aviation, where the industry is necessarily conservative and comparatively slow moving. Nonetheless, by finding a small group of like minded “pirates”, we are capturing new lands and creating the stories of our lives. The people we choose to have involved and to work with all have the same energy and enthusiasm for our vision to Unlock Aviation’s Full Potential. The courageous founding pirates joining me in creating SOFI are Eric and Maëlle.

There are so many easier things to choose to do, but doing easy things does not align to passing the “porch test”. After nearly 5 years of iterating the business model and product lines, in Q3 2021 we asked ourselves whether we were still passing the porch test- and we answered it as a “yes, but…”. At that time, we were just recovering from an extremely disorienting commercial situation. We “lost some skin” in the negotiations, but the scar is a permanent reminder to stay true to the porch test (particularly of how to respond), and we are stronger as a result.

What we will be telling our grandchildren is that we have already turned an aeroplane into a drone, by developing an Artificial Intelligence ‘upgrade kit’ for existing aeroplanes called SOFI. We are one of a handful of companies in the world to have achieved this milestone. But we are the only one to have achieved this for less than USD2M. It’s an incredible achievement, especially when you consider that we did it in New Zealand, with a small (but clearly capable) aerospace industry, which we had to grow at the same time! We have also gained world-first regulatory approvals and we continue to challenge the paradigm of what is possible within the current rule sets.

2022 has brought with it great traction in the aerial firefighting market segment. This is our market-entry use case, for a range of reasons. One of our BHAGs is to end wildfires (un-contained bushfires) in Australia and then California- protecting communities, saving lives and the climate. Not many people know that in 2021, 17% of the world’s carbon was emitted from wildfires. Yes, 17%. That’s 2.5x what was emitted by the whole of Europe. And the story gets crazier… even in the year 2022, pilot limitations mean that aerial firefighting AIRCRAFT ARE STUCK ON THE GROUND MORE THAN HALF OF THE TIME, in low visibility and/or at night. This is madness!

Australian Bush Fires from space- 2020 Black Summer. Aerial Firefighting aircraft were on the ground for more than 50% of the time.

Our product, SOFI, can be installed into aerial firefighting aircraft to get them to fly at anytime, potentially ending wildfires as a threat. What’s more, the commercials are incredible (doubling utilisation and tripling profitability).

But SOFI also applies to any aircraft, in any role, at any time. You can see where this is going to lead us…

So, does this pass the porch test? We think so! And every day we continue to focus on putting one foot in front of the other (technically) while being cognisant of our vision to Unlock Aviation’s Full Potential.

Be courageous, join us, and tell your grand children what you did too!


Article by Michael Read, Founding Team