Mike Johnson knows a thing or two about unmanned aircraft.
Now, Johnson has taken a step onto a civilian career path in the evolving drone industry. He started Monday as director of flight operations for SkySkopes, a Grand Forks-based drone flight services company.The 2004 Air Force Academy graduate has spent the past 12 years working in various facets in aviation, the most recent of which serving as chief evaluator UAS pilot for the Global Hawk program at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
“It’s seeing the industry and all the potential there — the growth, the unique opportunities,” Johnson said. “That’s where the biggest thing was, seeing SkySkopes having a good solid core of pilots who aren’t just going out and flying independently but coming together as a group really wanting to add value to people and making the industry a good, reputable industry.”
SkySkopes conducts flights that include inspections of utility infrastructure and the collection of data to produce maps, models and other imagery.
During his Air Force service, Johnson lead the standardization of operations, training and other initiatives for the U.S. Air Force’s Global Hawk program. He also conducted annual performance evaluations for 309 aircrew members in the program that helped identify trends within the program and let managers make adjustments to improve it.
His skills will translate well to the growing young company, SkySkopes President and CEO Matt Dunlevy said.
“He is both a businessman and he is very well educated in everything aviation,” Dunlevy added. “He graduated from the Air Force Academy so he’s no stranger to intellectual, physical and operational rigor.”
While Johnson’s background is heavy in military experience, he also holds an MBA from American Military University.
In his role as director of flight operations, Johnson will oversee a number of aspects of the business, including safety, flight logistics and flight planning.
“Every time we go out, it’s going to be a safe, effective operation,” Johnson said.