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.
John is Altavian’s CEO and Co-Founder. His dedication to drone technology grew from witnessing the incredible ability drones have to put even the most remote, dangerous, and difficult data to acquire within easy reach. John’s love of geomatics inspires his work. He believes that drone-collected data is essential to better managing our environment, our resources, and the infrastructure that secures our future.
He was the recipient of a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, an Engineers Without Borders volunteer, and an industry representative on the FAA’s Drone Registration Aviation Rulemaking Committee. John holds a Master’s degree in Geomatics from University of Florida, where he put his Ph.D. on hold to found Altavian.
Thomas is Altavian’s COO and Co-Founder. His focus is on Altavian’s professional services division including field collection, processing, and finalizing of geospatial data collected by drones. Thomas led the autonomous system development, including mission planning and monitoring software, for Altavian’s sUAS.
Prior to Altavian, Thomas worked for Aerovironment and Boeing coming out of the MAV lab at the University of Florida. He holds a BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering, both from the University of Florida.
Thomas is Altavian’s CPO and Co-Founder. He currently directs the entire product and technology development cycle for all Altavain products managing a team of over 20 engineers and machinists. He led the development of both the Nova F7200 and the Galaxy R8700 as well as the Fusion MP22 payload and Flare GCS.
He got his start in engineering growing up working in his father’s machine shop in Shiloh, FL. The passion for engineering in the shop led to a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Aerospace Engineering in the noted MAV and UAS labs at the University of Florida.
Outside of work, Thomas has a passion for restoring and rebuilding antique automobiles and boats and rooting for the New Orleans Saints.
Tolee has worked extensively on both sides of geospatial data generation, both in data collection and processing and in new system integration and design. With a dual background in geomatics and electrical engineering, he was involved early in his career in DoD-sponsored R&D that planted the seeds of some of the now-commonplace applications of Lidar, GNSS and inertial navigation systems.
Tolee has been fortunate enough to repeat the experience of working in another emerging technology, having worked in drone-based aerial mapping systems design since 2012. This field blends his previous work with new challenges found in aerial mapping. He holds a BS in Geomatics and a MS in Electrical Engineering.
Paul is Altavian’s CFO and brings his expertise to Altavian’s financial strategies, processes, and operations.
Prior to assuming the post of CFO, Paul was the founder and CEO of Cogent Risk, a boutique consulting firm that provides analytics, valuation and risk planning services to government research institutions and select private entities.
Previously, he worked at Merrill Lynch in the Global Markets and Investment Banking division. Before pursuing a career in finance, Paul served in the US Navy’s Special Boat Teams.
Paul received a BA in Economics (cum laude) and an MBA, both from Columbia University in the City of New York.
Paul is actively involved in veteran issues. He is co-founder and chairman of Columbia Veterans, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization helping veterans successfully transition to higher education and then into meaningful careers.