PrecisionHawk has been making headlines in the drone space for years now, whether it’s because of a notable acquisition, their involvement with the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), or their efforts to help operators establish a drone business under Part 107. Since 2017, Michael Chasen has been driving many of these developments as the CEO, but the company made the headlines today for a much different reason with the announcement that James Norrod has been named as the company’s new Chief Executive Officer. Chasen will now lead PrecisionHawk’s advisory board and continue on as head of the DAC.
The December announcement of a $32 million investment in PrecisionHawk from venture investors made this news somewhat surprising, but that’s before considering Norrod’s background. Having served as the CEO of companies like Tellabs, Segway and Infinite Power Solutions, he has helped numerous organizations transition into a totally different phase. While he’ll be relying on that experience as the new CEO, he made sure to highlight that his goal at PrecisionHawk is more about building on the foundation that has already been established for the company, rather than seeing it totally transform.
"You bring a new CEO in for all kinds of different reasons, but as everyone knows, Michael has done a phenomenal job getting us to where we are with revenue,” Norrod told Commercial UAV News. “The next move for this company is to focus on the bottom-line operational efficiencies, as we want to make sure that, for as fast as we're growing, we’re also paying close attention to the bottom line. With a company like PrecisionHawk, you have to prioritize the interests of investors, employees, customers and the environment. And I have a lot of experience with that."
Norrod made sure to highlight that he’s not looking to do anything fundamentally different from a strategic standpoint. PrecisionHawk will still be focused on data collection and their network of drone pilots. Investments in tools like PrecisionAnalytics will continue, as the emphasis for the company is around helping their customers derive actionable intelligence from data gathered by drone or any other device.
Norrod’s previous experiences will likely help shape the differences he plans to make for the company though, and it’s telling to consider how that played out in the personal-transportation industry when he was the CEO of Segway. Today, we think of a Segway as a two-wheeled motorized personal vehicle, but the electric scooters that are now spread across major cities were developed in a Segway lab. Additionally, the merger of Segway and Ninebot has turned those two companies into a valuable enterprise. That’s just a quick illustration of how markets and companies can develop in ways that no one could have envisioned, which makes Norrod’s perspective and position a vital one for PrecisionHawk and the entire drone industry.
“If you look back at my time as CEO of Segway, I think there are a lot of similarities with PrecisionHawk,” Norrod said. “Just like what happened there, PrecisionHawk is not going to look like it does today in five years, and that's a good thing. For companies working in these environments, the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. It requires left turns, right turns and even U-turns to get to where you want to go. There are a lot of things we're going to spin out in the future that will really build value in the business.”
Building that value speaks to the maturation of drone technology and the entire market. Operators and organization are more focused on the bottom line reality rather than potential, all of which speaks to the approach Norrod is taking for PrecisionHawk internally and externally.
“Companies have come and gone in this space,” Norrod continued. “It's seen a lot of change. We want to be the leader in this area, and fortunately for us, our investors have supported us to get to this space, and now is the time to take it to that next level. To me, that next level is to show the world that we can continue the growth we’ve enjoyed while also being the leading provider of actionable intelligence for the enterprise with their physical assets.”
What that will look like for operators and asset owners in industries that range from agriculture to energy to utilities continues to be a priority for PrecisionHawk. With Norrod as the new CEO, it will be telling to see how those distinctions are quantified and how they evolve to define the future of the company and for the entire drone industry.