The field of view (FOV) is the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment. That’s what Google tells me upon looking up “field of view.” But just below that definition is a link to Field of View, LLC – an aerial imagery tech startup based in Grand Forks, ND that is taking the observable world to new heights. Quite literally.
Meet David Dvorak, a 27-year-old graduate from the University of North Dakota who had a love for RC airplanes in high school, and unexpectedly stumbled into the UAS industry through a job working on payloads. That job turned into a keen interest in agricultural aerial systems, and in 2010 Dvorak started up Field of View as a way to assist farmers through using aerial imagery tech with drones.
Aerial imagery tech: “People will wonder how they ever lived without it.”
Five years later, and Field of View now has a wide customer base that spans to over a dozen different countries. The focus of the three person team – Dvorak, Kaci Lemier, and Danny Hajicek – is to engineer and sell remote sensing solutions for the agricultural and mapping industries. They do this through selling software, multispectral cameras, and a camera add-on called the Geo-Snap system.
“The Geo-snap logs the position and attitude of the camera at the moment of capture,” Dvorak said. “Users can use it to map a farm field or a gravel pit, or do generic surveying.”
When they first took this aerial imagery tech hardware to the market there was little to no competition, Dvorak said. In fact, even Field of View wasn’t initially going to sell products. Dvorak’s original intent was to provide agricultural aerial systems as a service. He pictured he and his team, equipped with the latest UAS tech, driving in a truck from farm to farm to help out the local farmers.
At the time, the FAA had said the rules regarding UAS regulations would be out in about a year. But it wasn’t until last month, five years after Field of View started, that the FAA finally released a proposal regarding UAS regulations.
The proposal comes too late for Dvorak and Field of View; they began focusing on providing imaging, hardware and software expertise in 2013. But perhaps, Dvorak said, it’s for the better.
“At this point, we are probably better positioned to help other people with our current business model,” he said. “The new [FAA] rules are fairly relaxed, so there’ll be a lot of companies offering some sort of UAS based service. I think we’re in a better position to sell to them rather than compete.”
And the use of aerial imagery tech for precision agriculture is only going to get bigger, Dvorak said.
“I think once the FAA gets some more solid rules, imagery in agriculture will be as common as smartphones and consumer industry,” he said. “People will wonder how they ever lived without it.”
Making North Dakota known
As far as starting up in Grand Forks, Dvorak said he encounters similar advantages and disadvantages to any startup based in North Dakota: the resources are incredible, but the tech is often bypassed by people who simply don’t think of North Dakota as a tech hub.
“North Dakota is so accessible. I mean, somebody like myself with a tiny company can get invited to UAS Industry Day to meet with the state leaders of the UAS industry. If this was Silicon Valley, I’d be one of thousand startups,” Dvorak said. “But a disadvantage is that North Dakota is not always the first place for tech innovations. Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that’s where we’re located.”
However, after seeing the interest at UAS Industry Day, Dvorak said he has high hopes for the future of the drone industry in North Dakota.
“This last UAS Industry Day I was excited and surprised to see the number of other startups that were getting into it,” he said.
The UAS industry is ready to fly
Dvorak also humored me by answering an oddball question: if your startup was an animal, what animal would it be?
His response was that they would be an owl, for reasons that perhaps many involved with the UAS private sector can agree with.
“We’ve been in a mode with the FAA rules, where we have to sit on the branch and observe, and make strategies and intelligent decisions while trying to weather the delay,” he said. “I think we, and the industry in general, is getting ready to leap off the perch and go and do what we’ve been thinking about doing and talking about doing.”
“We’re ready,” he said.
Photos courtesy of Field of View.