“I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think somewhere in the future, [as] we have CEOs and CFOs, … we may have a CDOs, a Chief Drone Officer.”

This is a 2014 quote from Al Allenback, a veteran U.S. Air Force pilot and professor at Troy University. Allenback led the university in creating a drone program that students can minor in.

Three years later, his prediction came true here at Firmatek, where in March we brought on Andrew Maximow to be our new Chief Drone Officer.

Andrew brings more than 20 years of experience both in management and in using cutting-edge technology to help enterprise-level customers solve business problems. For more than 15 years, he led teams at Cisco Systems in Silicon Valley.

Then, in 2013, he took over as Senior Director of Client Services at 3D Robotics, a groundbreaking startup that uses drones to map, model and collect site data in the construction, mining and surveying industries. There, he worked with customers such as BNSF Railways and Google. And in 2016, Andrew became a managing partner at Austin’s robotics-as-a-service provider Drone Dynamics.

The common thread in all of those roles is Andrew’s ability to champion cutting-edge tools — whether those are 24/7 tech support tools or drone-mounted measurement devices — to enterprise-level customers.

That’s why we are so excited to have him on board at Firmatek, and to have him help our clients uncover important business insights with our drone program.

Granted, when you’re exploring a technological frontier, there are going to be some unique challenges and opportunities. That’s what happens when you create a whole new category of C-suite executive.

So, we asked Andrew himself what he thought about his new role, and where he sees the technology leading us.

What will the role of Chief Drone Officer will involve? What’s the big-picture vision for developing Firmatek’s drone services?

The CDO role involves building a drone program that complements Firmatek’s precision measurement, 3D mapping, and data analytics capabilities. Similar to our mobile laser scanning technology, drones are yet another tool for data gathering but they do so from the air. The simplicity of drones enables more frequent data gathering, providing our clients virtually real-time inventory control, production planning, and site management.

My role will be to seamlessly integrate drones into existing workflows, offer our clients new capabilities, and thereby drive additional growth for Firmatek.

How did you get involved with UAVs as a technology, and what inspired you to pursue it entrepreneurially?

I became involved with UAVs during the phenomenal growth of the DIYdrones.com online community and the amazing ideas and homemade drones being posted and shared by its members.

The convergence of four elements — the online community; quadcopter popularity; open-source autopilot projects such as APM/Ardupilot; and the availability and ubiquity of cell phone components/sensors, [the] same components also found in drones — was the inspiration for me to pursue this technology as the “next big thing.”

Was there an “A-ha!” moment when you realized drones had potentially innovative applications across industries?

The moment simple “2-click” autonomous flight (automatic take-off, landing, and flight planning) capability was implemented in a smartphone app, taking [out] the complexity of flying UAV by expert pilots, was really the watershed moment that opened the door for the potential of commercial applications beyond the DIY/hobbyist/consumer realm.

The only barriers that remained, at that time, were legal/regulatory restrictions that still needed to be ironed out. But, by then the genie was out of the bottle, and everyone realized it was merely a matter of time.

How do you see new technology — drones or otherwise — unfolding in area engineering and construction fields over the next decade?

It’s really not about the drone. Sure, over the next couple of years we’ll see rapid innovation in advanced sensors, real-time situational navigation, artificial intelligence (AI), and continued integration in air-space currently occupied by manned aircraft. I am very confident all of these problems will be solved with technology with many smart and talented folks.

The business opportunity is in data analytics, which happens to be a core strength for Firmatek. UAVs will be a key element digitizing our world, and Firmatek will continue delivering supreme confidence to the companies building this world.

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