In the past decade we have seen the sharing economy grow exponentially. Back in 2008, when Airbnb first launched, the idea of allowing strangers to sleep in your spare room seemed laughably irresponsible. However, since that time, unlocking the earning potential of items we own has become something of an obsession. Now, not only can you rent out your spare room, but your parking spot, storage space and car itself also. It seems inevitable therefore that at some point this growing trend would expand to encompass the tech world. Step up Fat Lama, an online peer-to-peer rental marketplace that, to use their own words, ‘allows its users to rent pretty much anything’.
Though you can find anything from a coffee machine to a campervan on this platform, what we are really interested in finding out today is what their platform will mean to the average drone owner (if there is such a thing!).
How does it work?
Similarly Airbnb, Fat Lama relies on individual people listing their possessions on the platform. So unlike your usual rental shop, when you browse the site you are looking at people’s personal possessions rather than a set of company owned drones. Naturally, this makes the renting process a little different. Fat Lama does not ask for a deposit when you borrow a drone, although, you will be expected to complete a thorough security check before your request is passed onto the lender.
Once you have been verified, however, you set to perform as many rentals on the platform as you like. You just search the area for the model of drone you are looking for and see what’s available. Then it’s just a question of submitting your request directly to the lender for them to approve (you have the option of messaging lenders in advance to find out availability and handover time/ location before you commit to payment). The payments are all managed by Fat Lama so once the request has been approved, it’s just a question of picking it up and dropping it off when you are done.
What are the pro’s and con’s?
As its peer-to-peer, the experience is naturally a little different to your average rental shop. The obvious downside here is the distribution of supply. The nature of peer-to-peer means that there tends to be a greater supply where there is a greater concentration of people. So big cities are usually a safe bet but if you are out ‘in the sticks’ it may be a little more tricky to source the model you want.
However, on the whole the pro’s seem to outweigh the cons. Firstly, the lack of deposit makes renting drones more accessible to people with lower budget – ideal more anyone who wants to ‘try before they buy’ or use for a one off shoot. The other obvious is advantage is that peer-to-peer rental tends to be a LOT cheaper than traditional hires as the money is going directly to the lender.
Another advantage is that lenders tend to be a lot more flexible than traditional hire shops – they do not cease to exist after 5pm after all – as its for their direct benefit too they are often happy to arrange last minute or late night handovers. Finally, they are likely to be fellow drone enthusiasts just like you so it’s a great opportunity to pick up tips or build your professional network.
Like most industry disruptors, Fat Lama involves an element of risk when you sign up to use the platform. In many ways dealing directly with people rather than a business is inherently less reliable, but the payback is a rental experience that is cheap, flexible and more sustainable than traditional methods.
We may only just be seeing peer-to-peer rentals creep into the tech world, but it would be unwise to ignore this development completely. After all the peer-to-peer model lends itself particularly well to the drone industry in particular. Ultimately, drones are expensive bits of kit and unrealistic purchases for many people to buy – but not to rent. What’s more, very few owners use their drones everyday – so are happy to rent them out in the meantime.