With the flying season now in full swing, you may be considering potential upgrades for your helicopters. There are plenty to choose from, and KDE Direct has long been a forerunner when it comes to quality upgrades.
For those who aren’t familiar with KDE Direct, I caught up with Patrick and Leslie Koegler, owners of KDE Direct, to learn a little more about the family behind the business.
Chris Mulcahy: KDE Direct is a well-known name in heli circles for quality upgrades and motors. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with the business?
Patrick Koegler: My wife, Leslie, and I started the company six years ago as a small home-based business, with the goal of producing high-quality and innovative products. During this time, I was working as a mechanical engineer for a large exercise equipment corporation. My background is biomechanical engineering and Leslie’s is business operations, so we both always had a goal to start our own company and KDE Direct was our first opportunity.
RC helicopters had been a hobby of mine for years, so having the chance to work in an industry I was passionate about was exciting, to say the least. Since then, we’ve grown as a USA-based operation with our own computer numeric controlled (CNC) machining facility and shipping warehouse, so we’re proud to support jobs here in our local community.
CM: What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of being a US-based business, where most of your inventory is actually made in the US?
PK: The biggest advantage for us is customer support and speed to market. We are vertically integrated in our development process, which allows us to take a design from CAD or even a basic sketch, and move it right into computer-aided machining (CAM) and start machining parts on the CNC equipment at our facility. As a team, we’re able to make changes and even brainstorm ideas, before we start cutting parts—saving time and money and producing the best products we are capable of for the market.
All of our aluminum designs are produced in-house at our facility here in Washington state, with the exception of the XF Brushless Motors, which are hand-wound in China. All products pass through quality inspection and packaging, and ship directly from our facility. Our customers are always getting products shipped directly from us and full customer support across the board. Another advantage is our ability to stand behind all of our designs, and we do our best to provide industry-leading customer support for our products.
CM: I imagine you to have a red phone in your workshop that keeps ringing off the hook from people with upgrade ideas. What is your process for taking an idea (either yours or one someone has suggested) and turning it into the final product?
PK: That is true and we are blessed with a great fan base that continually sends us ideas and innovations. Most of the ideas come from our team and friends we have met throughout the years at shows and fun-flys, and we’ll work to try to bring an idea to life if it fits the market.
We purchase the latest kits on the market and build/fly them on a continual basis, so we stay ahead of the competition and keep up with the latest technology and trends in the market.
CM: What is the biggest change you have seen in the business since you first started?
PK: The biggest change in the industry is the growth of numerous brands and new kits coming to the market. When we first started, Align was everything in the market—no matter what we produced as upgrades for the brand, it would sell. Nowadays, there’s been a boom in the industry for kits. It seems like every month a new brand is jumping into the scene and it’s exciting for us RC helicopter addicts, but definitely more difficult to stay ahead of the game in upgrades.
The other change has been the boom of knockoffs from overseas manufacturers, which makes it difficult to invest in research and testing when you know your ideas and hard work will be replicated in a matter of months. This plagues all manufacturers involved in research, so it’s a challenge we all face in bringing new developments to the market.
CM: Multirotors are pretty hot right now, and seem like a logical step for your XF motor series. How did you decide to make the jump?
PK: We knew multirotors were the next big thing, simply by the number of inquiries and emails we were receiving about them. Many of our fans were diving into multirotors and asking about upgrades, motors, propellers, and all kinds of other products, so we knew this was a great fit for KDE Direct.
Before we made the move, we tested many competitive products and realized there was a great opportunity to introduce high-quality products, with the support of a company in the US. Some of the current products on the market are low-quality, mass-produced items with poor performance and reliability, so we are excited to bring quality and performance-driven products to the market that meet our customer demands and exceed the competition. We worked on this project for more than a year before bringing it to the market, and we’re excited at the success it has already had.
CM: “KAGE Rotors.” I’ve seen the teaser on your website, and heard the speculation online. What can you share with us about this intriguing new name?
PK: KAGE Rotors is our latest company, and we can’t share much until the official launch, but the goal is to bring industrial platforms to the multirotor industry. These will be US-produced systems, geared toward the commercial and industrial market in need of multirotor lifting platforms, with the quality and reliability that our engineering team is known for.
It will be a hybrid blend of new innovations from KAGE Rotors, with the KDE Direct product line supporting the system—from the industry-leading XF brushless motors and ESCs (coming soon), to aerospace-grade propellers and other innovations. We’re excited and working hard to bring this to life in the near future.
CM: I know you love helis as much as the rest of us, so I will put you on the spot and ask you. Who is your favorite heli pilot?
PK: This one is easy, and it would be watching my daughter, Audrey, learning to fly helicopters. She loves it—always has since the day she could hold a transmitter, and she now wants to start flying something more than a micro-heli around the house. So, our next step is to transition her into a 500-size, and I’m planning on installing a DJI NAZA-H unit in it to start with so she can learn orientations and stick movements, with the ability of the helicopter to self-stabilize.
I already know that by the time she’s eight she’ll be flying circles around me in the sky, and I look forward to it. We travel around to local shows throughout the summer as a family, so I can’t wait until we’re all at the flightline enjoying the hobby.