PHOTOS © DRONEFUN
PHOTOS © DRONEFUN
PHOTOS © DRONEFUN

Team-building in the air

TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTOS © DRONEFUN

Is navigating a drone on your to-do list for 2019? Then perhaps you and your colleagues can make your first flight during a Dronefun team-building session. By playing challenging and whimsical games in teams, you become a first-class pilot in no time.

After having had full and challenging careers in IT and science, Gino De Wachter and his wife Nancy were ready for a new adventure. Driven by a shared passion for technology, they founded Dronefun, organising chipper, informal team-building activities with drones. “Drones are incredibly fun to work with,” De Wachter explains. “I first flew one about four years ago. There wasn’t even a Belgian legislation about them yet. It was love at first sight for me. I am no pilot and I have never aspired to be one, yet the feeling of controlling a flying object myself attracted me a lot.”

This joy they want to share with the world by organising team-building exercises for companies and offering initiations at big events like Comic Con and SuperNova : not by boring or confusing their audiences with long lectures and explanations, but in a fun and hands-on way. “We start every session with five minutes of initiation. Afterwards, the participants are ready for take-off. In teams, we let them try their luck on an obstacle course, race against each other and play with drone cameras. In one of our more absurd games, they even have to deliver as many pizzas as possible in a limited time.”

In conference rooms or on the tarmac

Because of this fun approach, anyone can participate – whether they believe that themselves or not! “People often tell us: ‘I can’t do this’. Yet, several minutes later, their drone takes off and the fun starts. In general, nearly everybody gets the hang of it within five to 15 minutes. We keep our sessions accessible for everybody.” That also allows non-tech-companies to hire Dronefun. Furniture designers, bank clerks, nurses… all of them have tried and achieved flying a drone and participating in the challenges. “We don’t make it very competitive. It is more about cooperation than about rivalry. The team usually takes good care of each other. Besides, they are allowed to fail. We work with light and flexible drones who can take one or two hits, but sometimes they do break. For us, that is normal, and therefore not a problem. We have hundreds of drones because we know that by playing with them, occasionally one or two might crack.”

Since their concept is unique in the Benelux, many companies have hired Dronefun for a day of team-building. In just a few years, over 10,000 people have had their first drone experience during one of Gino and Nancy’s workshops. “There are many drone-orientated businesses on the market, yet we are one of the few who use them in a recreative and social context.” Since the workshops always take place on location, their clients are spread out over all of Belgium, the Netherlands or even further. “We ask the companies to provide a place for our session. Because of the Belgian weather, it must be inside, preferably somewhere with a ceiling that is at least four meters high. The necessary size of the room, of course, depends on how many participants we have. Sometimes we have 30 people, the next time over 100. We often do it in conference rooms or gyms, and we have also done it in old churches, castles and showrooms of car-dealers. When we did a workshop for the staff of Brussels Airlines, we even did it in the airplane maintenance shelter on the tarmac of the airport. To fly with our drones between those enormous airbuses felt really amazing.”

Segways and robots

Since their technological fascination has surpassed even the field of drones, De Wachter and his wife have now extended their business and founded Tech4Fun, doing workshops with other futuristic gadgets as well. “During our Tech4Fun-challenge, the participants get acquainted with a broad variety of advanced technology. They game in virtual reality, use mini Segways, become best friends with a couple of robots and, of course, fly a drone. The most important thing is that the games are challenging and stimulate colleagues to work together. Technology is something you must explore rather than watch or read about. Often, participants come to thank us afterwards because we finally made them understand why their children or grandchildren love gaming so much. That’s what motivates us. We challenge people to do things they don’t believe they’re able to do: yet, everyone tries it, does it and likes it!”

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