It’s no news that commercial drone company PrecisionHawk is a leader in drone technology; they’ve been in the forefront of the industry since the company started in 2010. With an impressive client list of Fortune 500 companies and operations across the globe, PrecisionHawk has always had a number of weapons in its arsenal: strong leadership, good tech, and strategic partnerships. Now, new CEO Michael Chasen just might be their next secret weapon, as he takes the helm to grow the company to the next level.
Previously, Chasen was CEO and co-founder of Blackboard, an education technology platform, which went public in 2004 and was sold in 2011 for $1.7 billion. He then founded SocialRadar, a geo-location company using satellite and street level images to determine the exact location of businesses: that company was purchased by Verizon in 2016. Appointed to the CEO position at PrecisionHawk last month, Chasen is right where he wants to be: at the head of a company facing explosive growth in the brave new world of another brand new industry.
Chasen has nothing but enthusiasm for the challenge, saying that the chance to work in a swiftly burgeoning industry was one of his primary reasons for joining the team. “That’s what attracted me: the opportunity to be part of a market leading company at the beginning of the industry,” he says. “PrecisionHawk is led by a team that isn’t just participating in the industry, they’re leading it.”
Great fundamentals, including a roster of Fortune 500 clients that might be a Who’s Who list; great technology; and the right people are the factors that Chasen feels put PrecisionHawk in position to end up on top. The company provides an enterprise platform that collects and analyzes data to improve business intelligence – it’s a feature rich solution that includes automated flight planning, tracking, data collection, and analytics. And while PrecisionHawk also manufactures drones – their Lancaster fixed-wing is one of the leaders in agriculture drones – they haven’t tied themselves to one aircraft or industry: the system can be used on multiple drones and across industries. “It’s not just software,” Chasen explains. “It’s a platform that can be leveraged for many applications.” This flexibility means more opportunity as the industry grows and different verticals adopt drone technology, and it’s served the company well. In practical terms, it means that the company’s pipeline has seen a huge increase.
That flood of new clients and prospects is what Chasen sees as his primary challenge. “The industry is growing so quickly – how do you make sure that you build the right infrastructure to serve that new opportunity? That’s the issue.” It’s an issue he’s familiar with. Chasen built Blackboard from a company of 2 into an international organization of 3,000. Growing an operation effectively to meet customer needs is something he knows how to do: and with the foundation offered by the existing team he’s confident they’ll be successful. “The PrecisionHawk team has all of the building blocks that are required to become the world leader in commercial drone technology, and I am looking forward to the growth and immense opportunity ahead,” he said in the company’s statement announcing his arrival.
“World leader” isn’t just a superlative, it’s a goal. Chasen says that part of the excitement he sees with PrecisionHawk is around the team’s key position in shaping the industry, through innovation and representation. They’ve been instrumental in testing drone integration technologies in collaboration with federal agencies: they work under the FAA Pathfinder program and have developed the LATAS drone safety platform, which has the potential to be a major factor in drone integration. They are key players in the industry’s efforts to have a voice in drone regulation. “PrecisionHawk is really helping to open up the industry – not just in terms of regulations, but in new technology,” says Chasen.
As the drone industry explodes and technologies shift at a sometimes dizzying rate, many companies racing towards the next stage of their growth are bringing on their next generation team of management to see them through. Michael Chasen provides PrecisionHawk with an impressive leader – one who seems more than capable of keeping the company out in front.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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