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Whatever Happened to PrecisionHawk Pathfinder?

* This was written before the DJI and Airmap break up, Red Hat, IBM buy out and Uplift four-person onboarding. Things happen so fast around here; it changes by the day. Red Hat got enough bread from IBM that they could put PH on life-support for just about ever and not bat an eye. So, we’ll just have to see how this whole deal pans out.

Not too long ago this UAV manufacturer was blazing a trail—path-finding if you will—the way to BVLOS. No one knows what happened to all of the promises, however. Attached here is the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) between the FAA and PrecisionHawk from just a few short years ago. ANG-TT-CRDA-313-FEC-F-01

LATAS at the time was heralded a promising solution for working its way through the difficult task of making the Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) a reality. If LATAS would have worked as suggested, it would not only have broken us free from the bounds of the Visual Observer (VO) but could have made the NAS safer for GA and who knows, made the UAM possible too. The FAA offered them a chance at the keys to the proverbial future of aviation kingdom. However, things don’t appear to have worked out because if it had been successful, it would have been worth a whole stable full of unicorns. Don’t think it was all for naught; we did make progress, as Extended Visual Line Of Sight (EVLOS) with a VO is now just considered BVLOS.

Some folks scratched their heads as to why the cellphone carriers just quietly crabbed away from not only the keys but also the whole dang BVLOS UTM kingdom. There have been suggestions that the legal team may have come up to speed on some of the nuisances of aviation liability. Just when we thought old LATAS had fallen off of the radar, a pared down version is now taking over for the LAANC (now UTM) cellphone app developed by Airmap. We can only speculate as to why the DJI would leave the familiarity of this often-touted, most-widely-used airspace app.

Last, we officially heard there was some reorganization going on over there in NC.

Is this just a case of not enough VC money left to paint, but not too proud to whitewash?

I got a boatload of emails, PM, texts, phone calls, and smoke signals from folks purported to be freshly in the “unemployment line” know and from “others” about the P-hawk post-acquisition reorganization. The “stuff” is flying in from all over the World, and it appears that things may not be as rosy as suggested in the hastily-put-together press release.


There were claims made that some of the folks in a third of the workforce culled were working overtime on verticals that the sales folks were nailing shut! The only reason I could see for cutting the crew is that you’re not making any money on the FARM DRONES, infrastructure, and mapping verticals. What do I know? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have an MBA from ASU (Harvard on the Gila), so maybe hiring new people makes more sense (cents)? Golly, I’d just figure paying out huge severance (one pay period for family smacks of success), hiring new people, and training them to do the job of folks that already had tons of experienced may not be the finically sensible thing to do.

It has been suggested by those let go that morale is/was lower than a snake’s belly and management is trying to cut overhead pronto by paying new hires less money. It could be a both/ and thing, but I’d have to do the math on a whiteboard or something to see how it markers out. Does anyone know if you can go back and sharpen the dry erase marker?

From all reports it doesn’t sound like things are all wine and roses with the latest acquisitions, not to mention that the internet rosters of experts have yet to deliver a squadron of “This was their finest hour!” drone pilots. Even the six masters of the skies cannot do the work of forty people, even with a boatload of overtime. Are we to deduce that real data contracts are a little more involved than the lucrative real estate or selfie aerial photography market? All speculation aside, you’d think that a rich smart guy would have already known that Measure had/has those markets locked down padlock!

Word around the transmission tower is that the Florida Light and Power contract may have been underbid and there is a scramble to find some drone acquisition(s) actually turning a profit. Like hens’ teeth, drone business’ turning a profit being as hard to come by in the ecosystem, and if you do find one, harder still to get for a debt-equity swap.

I can tell you that hiring less qualified people to save money on a loser is not a winning strategy. You bite the bullet, pay the hired guns, and plough through the job or let it go. Unless of course, you don’t mind looking like a complete red nose, big-shoe-and-skinny-jean-wearing appclown to your customer.

You won’t hear that kind of real deal from the field talk at the Pivoting Your Way To Profit luncheon at the Commercial Dog and Pony Expo or the InterCarpetbagger drone show. No, instead you can come by the booth and have your picture taken with the lap hyena/morale officer or bonus visionary of your choice. Heck, it may be the same person in some cases, but you are guaranteed to feel like you got your money’s worth. Do you feel better now, man?

Whatever is or isn’t going on in NC, we here at sUAS News are working on trying to get the Pathfinder details from the FAA to see what brand of snake oil was used to grease the purported vaporware skids. I hear that Raleigh is a lot like Silicon Valley where one company bites the dust and the gaggle moves to the next company to try the same strategy that failed at their old company. Rinse, repeat and the next thing

you know you’re failing up at Google, Amazon, or Intel until the burrito string gets cut for good.

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