Altavian spun out of the University of Florida as an officially licensed tech transfer startup company in 2011. But, the genesis of the company goes back long before Altavian existed.
The University of Florida was one of the leaders in research in Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) throughout the 2000’s. The MAV Lab was the leader of an international competition 8 years running. Simultaneously, an Ecology lab run out of the University of Florida’s IFAS program was investigating drone use. The leading cause of death of wildlife biologists is low-altitude aircraft accidents, and one such accident occurred in the previous decade where, tragically, a student lost their life. After some initial trials with outside vendors, the Ecology lab and the MAV lab spun-off a new venture; the University of Florida Unmanned Aircraft Research Program.
In the latter half of that decade, the Army Corps of Engineers took interest in the program, and began working with UF to monitor invasive species in South Florida, notably the Everglades. Previously, species were monitored by manned aircraft and often the counts were inaccurate. So, a partnership was formed to develop an unmanned craft that could perform the surveys required deep in the Everglades.
Coincidentally, this was the first collaboration between future co-founders of Altavian: Thomas Reed, Thomas Rambo, and John Perry. Reed and Rambo were both students in the MAV lab while Perry was studying Geomatics in conjunction with the Ecology lab.
The Army Corps of Engineers laid out these general requirements: the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) needed to be able to cover a lot of land, maintain stable flight above the windy Everglades, it needed to be able to be launched and recovered by boat, and it needed to be within 1 mile line of sight while still covering all that territory per FAA regulations at that time. The last piece of the puzzle was that it needed high quality sensors to map vegetation. In order to maximize the sensor, the drone needed to be large to carry the right sensors.
This was the foundation for the first line of Nova: a workhorse drone that could carry the best sensors, maximize area covered, and operate effectively in challenging environmental conditions including wind and water.
This project not only shaped the future of the Nova line of drones, it also shaped the culture of our company.
From the beginning, the culture behind Altavian and behind our products was that of being requirements-based. Our drones have always needed to fulfill real-world aviation requirements, originally laid down by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Altavian believes in pairing enterprise grade drones with custom-tailored workflows to impact our customers’ bottom line. We partner with our customers to learn how drones can collect data they use every day for a fraction of the cost. Drones should augment the data collector’s toolkit, enhancing data collection and integrity for the 21st century.