In 2013, co-founders Tobin Fisher and Joe van Niekerk founded Vantage Robotics (Vantage) with a clear mission to make extraordinary aerial video easy. We began this journey by building a team of seasoned engineers with high-tech backgrounds, recruiting NASA professionals, Stanford grads, and designers from consultancies like IDEO. Together, we built the first small, commercial drone that was granted a broad waiver from the FAA for commercial operations over people.
Developing Snap, however, wasn’t without its challenges, including but not limited to portability, durability, wind performance, flight time, video quality, crash survival, and safety. It took us several years, but we were committed to the groundwork and grounded our solutions in academic research, rigorous testing, and analysis. And this work paid off; Snap generated over $1 million in pre-sales. Snap’s positive reception and use by customers like Rutherford County, Tennessee and CNN was the first of many milestones for Vantage and our product development.
Now, we’re thrilled to share a new, landmark milestone for our company. We’ve pivoted our business from building drones for consumers to building military-grade, American-made intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones and components for commercial and government markets. This defense and commercial-focused journey largely began last year when we won a contract with FLIR to build a gimbal for its Hadron, a compact, low power form factor with a visual and thermal camera, and won a development contract with the U.S. Army to develop Short-Range Reconnaissance (SRR) prototypes with more federal contracts in the pipeline.
Since then, we started developing more products to meet these unique market needs, including our latest UAV Vesper. Vesper is a truly portable ISR drone that’s built for better situational awareness in all conditions. Vesper also meets the government’s procurement criteria and the SRR program’s system specifications for operational range, flight endurance, environmental rating, assembly time, take-off weight, architecture, and payload.
While we were building Vesper, we also began the 18-month long vetting process for the Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU) new Blue sUAS program, which was formally announced this morning. The DIU, an organization under the DoD, is committed to rebuild the department’s relationship with the commercial technology sector and began this program to procure secure, trusted sUAS across the interagency.
In our view, Blue sUAS is a positive first step towards commercial-federal and ecosystem-wide collaboration, and we’re proud to be one of five vendors selected. We look forward to collaborating with the DoD, its federal government partners, and fellow industry leaders Altavian, Parrot, Skydio, and Teal Drones.
In addition to joining the DIU’s Blue sUAS project, we’ve made significant strides as a company since launching Snap in 2017:
- We’ve nearly doubled the team, bringing on new hires with backgrounds in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, high performance video pipelines, perception, and optics.
- Combined, we now have 227 years of experience and have launched 174 products and 17 companies.
- We’re especially thrilled to have Patrick McGivern join our team as COO. Patrick has previously led operations for Fitbit, Handspring, and Palm, amongst many others. We’re thrilled to be in such prestigious company.
Throughout this consumer to federal/commercial journey, it became clear that there’s an urgent government need for COTS type 1 payload options, the next generation of ISR, and UAV ecosystem-wide collaboration. Rooted in Silicon Valley’s long-standing history of innovation and Stanford’s history of engineering excellence, we will continue to build extraordinary aerial video and technologies, whether drones or drone components, that prioritize security and safety while continuing to push the limits of performance. As we continue to build upon this history and our momentum, we look forward to what’s next, not just what’s next for our company, but what’s next for the entire ecosystem.