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This Company Lets You Test-Fly Drones Before You Buy Them

By Matt Villano

Aug 11, 2017

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Plus, they offer a slew of other fancy gear for the travel-minded set.

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If you travel and you love cool gear, you probably should know about Lumoid. The San Francisco vendor runs a rental service through which travelers can test out hundreds of drones, cameras, wearables, and other gizmos—either before a big trip or on the road. Of course, Lumoid sells all this gear, too—used and new. The firm caught our attention earlier this week when the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay in California announced a Lumoid-run workshop through which guests can learn how to fly fancy drones. In the context of that news, we sat down with 33-year-old CEO and founder Aarthi Ramamurthy to learn more.

How does the Lumoid model work?

“We make it possible for consumers to test out items before they commit to buying. If you are going on vacation and you want really nice photography gear or a drone, our service is a great way to try out different products on a short-term rental. Every time you try, we set aside 20 percent of every transaction as credit toward something else. You can apply the credits to another rental or a purchase later on. When customers decide to buy, we give them a choice: They can buy new items or they can buy used items with prices based on days used and wear and tear. Typically the discounts on used items range from 10 to 60 percent off.”

What problem do you solve?

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“With the rise of e-commerce, people aren’t walking into physical retail stores to discover items anymore. We’re trying to bring that back.”

Lumoid CEO and founder Aarthi Ramamurthy
Why do you think this resonates so dramatically with travelers?

“Many people like to bring the latest and greatest gear with them when they go away. We offer a great way to stay on top of that. If you don’t need or want a gadget beyond vacation, send it back and try something else. Our first customer was a traveling photographer from Boise, Idaho, who rented a camera for a trip. He helped spread the word. Today we estimate that somewhere between 55 and 60 percent of our customers are travelers. We base that strictly on where we’re sending the gear—more than half of our customers have us send things to hotels, Airbnb rentals, and places other than their primary [addresses].”

How big is the drone business for you?

“We started four years ago with cameras, but now drones are our biggest segment. We have a few hundred drones now. We work directly with manufacturers, sourcing products from them. We also run workshops—we’ve been doing those in San Francisco for years. The workshop at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay represents the first time we’ve done a workshop for a hotel. Initially, we wondered how sticky the audience would be, but we’ve learned that the clientele there really likes gadgets.”

What sort of etiquette is important for people to understand when using drones?

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“Drones are small automated helicopters. They have the ability to injure people. You could injure yourself. In the workshops, we start by telling people that they can’t fly lower than 400 feet, that they need to stay away from buildings, and that they need to respect people’s privacy. We also explain that you can’t fly a drone until it’s calibrated. It’s important to remember that you need to register yourself as a drone pilot before you fly one. Registration costs $5 on the FAA [Small Unmanned Aircraft System] website. During our workshops, we sign up participants ahead of time. There are other regulations that apply to drone flying, as well. The bottom line: People just need to be smart about how and where they use the tools.”

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