“We look at a drone like an app developer looks at an iPad. It’s a tool – how do you create value with this tool? How do you make people’s lives safer?” – Robert Blank, CTO, Mountain Drones

Scanning a mountain landscape by drone with FMCW radar would inexpensively provide Mountain Drones with data about the depth and density of the snowpack. This information, in the right hands, would be hugely valuable. Around 80% of water consumed in the Western United States comes from snowmelt; providing accurate and comprehensive information on the state of a region’s snowpack could enable hydrologists to more sensibly plan water use – impacts reach beyond residential consumers into agriculture, food and beverage production, fire mitigation, and beyond.

As our understanding of how snowpack acts over time, we can build computer models that will more accurately be able to predict water resource based on more complete and frequent data. The team plans to use this technology to strengthen existing snowpack and hydrology models to gain a much more accurate understanding of snowpack over larger geographical areas. Mountain Drones has even been contacted by relief agencies in the third world, who want the experts to deploy their technology to serve as an early warning system for towns typically prone to detrimental floods and avalanches, potentially saving the residents weeks of unnecessary evacuation.

The technology is great but the inspiring part of this story is the way that these guys kept going out and talking to people. No fear about reevaluating their ideas, changing their direction or thinking bigger. John Robison caught it perfectly. It is a true “pivot” in every sense of the word. Yet they never lost sight of their goal.


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