How we got started
RoboFlight was formed in 2013 with the realization that farmers need better tools to realize the potential benefits of precision agriculture. Starting with a single UAS and a lot of research, we came together to provide an integrated hardware and software services platform that provides a means of collecting aerial imagery data with the ability to analyze and manage that data at cost effective price points and in timeframes that allow immediate decisions with a high degree of accuracy.
Where We Came From
RoboFlight was originally founded by Daniel Melia and Kirk Demuth in early 2013, but the history of these two individuals goes back many years before this. Daniel Melia grew up in the small town of Goodland, KS and from a very early age, he had an innate love for aviation. As a child, he would ride his bike to the Goodland airport just to watch airplanes takeoff and land. In high school, he took a job on the flight line at the airport and soon after began taking flight lessons towards earning his private pilot’s license. He earned his private pilot certificate his senior year of high school and made the decision to make a career of becoming a professional pilot by attending professional flight school Kansas State University – Salina. This is where Daniel and Kirk first met. Kirk, like Daniel, also had a passion for aviation. Kirk’s began as a child, growing up on a farm in Ford, KS, where he used to watch the local crop duster spray his family’s corn fields. He also took a flight line job as a junior in high school at the Dodge City airport while training for his private pilot certificate. Kirk earned his private pilot license within a few months and also made the decision to attend Kansas State University to pursue a career as a professional pilot.
Kirk and Daniel were college roommates throughout flight school. Kirk graduated a year before Daniel and took a job towing banners in Daytona Beach, FL for a short stint and then accepted a position as a civilian contractor to the Army and Air Force as a chase plane pilot for the military Predator and Reaper Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program in southern CA. Daniel graduated as a flight instructor for Kansas State University and took a job as a charter pilot in the Monterrey, CA area. Daniel and Kirk’s paths crossed again when they both accepted a position in 2009 at a Wichita, KS startup company designing and test flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems for various DoD contractors. Daniel departed this job after a couple years to move back closer to his hometown to fly part time for a local charter company and help on his family farm.
Kirk, shortly after Daniel’s departure, took a position as the UAS Program Manager at Kansas State University and assisted in launching the KSU BS degree in Unmanned Systems. This is where Kirk met Dr. Kevin Price and was introduced by Dr. Price to Mark Lanning through collaborative research initiatives at the University. At this time, Dr. Price was performing research on using unmanned aircraft with Near Infrared sensors to produce crop stress maps for agricultural applications. Mark Lanning, as an entrepreneur, was assisting Dr. Price in developing the AgPixel software tool for simplifying analysis of the imagery collected from the UAS. Daniel came to the Kansas State University open house event in the spring of 2013, where Kirk brought him up to speed on the capabilities of using UAS for agricultural applications. Daniels recent involvement in precision ag equipment on his own family’s farm got his gears turning on how this technology could be applied to his family’s farming operation. Daniel decided to build his own UAS to do just this. In this process of doing so, Daniel left his part time job as a charter pilot and accepted a position as airport manager at Burlington – Kit Carson County airport.
One day while working on his UAS, a pilot/businessman stopped in and started asking questions about Daniels project. Daniel excitingly educated this individual on the technology and application potential and the gentleman told Daniel he should start a business providing this service. At that moment, Daniel discussed this with Kirk and they decided to start RoboFlight. An investor deck was generated, and several months later, investment funding was acquired. RoboFlight immediately acquired AgPixel and Mark Lanning, Dr. Price, and others joined the team in March of 2014. RoboFlight began offering remote sensing training, hardware and processing services, tailored to the agriculture industry. RoboFlight soon began to diversify into other industries that stood to benefit from the technology. Today, RoboFlight and its Ag counterpart, AgPixel, are providing aerial imagery collection, processing, and analysis throughout the US and 8 international locations.