12 European Drone CEOs to follow PART 1 by Joanna Wieczorek

December 8, 2021

Passion, audacity, and risk-taking are the prerequisites of being a leader. We have witnessed the fantastic works of many leaders in the drone industry, who have achieved milestones of success with their hard work and dedication. They are the ones who not only lead their own company, but with their actions and decisions as to the industry voice, they are shaping todays’ EU regulations.

In this exclusive edition titled, “The 12 European Drone CEOs to follow”, we have recognized the inspiring journey of some daring leaders who stepped out of their comfort zone, believed in drones from the beginning and built successful operations and businesses out of it. Worth following their activities! 

Jean-Marc Crépin - Azur Drones 

After more than 20 years in finance, private equity, corporate management, and strategy, Jean-Marc Crépin joined Azur Drones as CEO in 2016 with the ambition to create a European leader in the drone industry. At the time, the European drone market was highly fragmented and in the process of being structured, with only a few structured and funded drone manufacturers.

With the support of a private French investor, Jean-Marc spearheaded the 2017 acquisitions of Flying Eye, Air City Diagnostic and Skeyetech. Following those acquisitions, Azur Drones quickly refocused on the drone-in-a-box technology. 

By now, with their customer mindset, Azur Drones is one of the world leaders in drone-in-a-box solutions for surveillance and inspection. Their Skeyetech system was designed to enhance security and support operations over sensitive sites.

Its assets are numerous: Skeyetech offers mobility, higher responsiveness, superior visual capabilities, thermal imaging, as well as protection of people. It easily integrates into existing security features and requires no certified remote pilot. 

Over 150 users currently operate their solution on the most sensitive sites in Europe and the Middle East (Nuclear, Oil & Gas, Ports, Chemistry Industry, Smart Cities, etc.).

Jean-Marc scaled a company from a few people startup to an operation based in Bordeaux, Paris, and Dubai, collaborating with well-established partners in Europe and the Middle East, such as Orano, Engie, Oiltanking, Port of Dunkerque, G4S, or the French Ministry for Armed Forces.

We love his reposts and thoughts about the industry; follow him here on LinkedIn.  

Richard Parker - Altitude Angel

Richard Parker is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Altitude Angel, a UTM (Unified Traffic Management) and U-Space technology provider, delivering solutions enabling the safe integration of drones into the airspace.

Altitude Angel’s platform provides data and services to established airspace management organizations, drone manufacturers, and software developers. Its solutions accelerate the realization of both the social and economic values which drones bring to the table.

Richard’s diverse experience across a range of verticals, coupled with his strong background in software design, technology, and cybersecurity ensures that Altitude Angel can continue to drive innovation in the emerging UTM sector.

From a consistent, well-documented, and standards-based platform, drone manufacturers such as DJI and cutting-edge software developers around the world use Altitude Angel Developer Platform to obtain rich, relevant, and local geofencing data, exchange and share flight plans, de-conflict their flights in real-time and interface with national flight authorization systems. A growing portfolio of enhanced capabilities helps Altitude Angel's customers to comply with current and future regulations and interface with changing national systems with minimum effort.

Altitude Angel’s first-party solutions also power some of the world’s leading ANSPs, aviation authorities, and enterprises, including LVNL (Netherlands) and Avinor (Norway), empowering them with new capabilities to safely manage and integrate drone traffic into national operations.

Today, Altitude Angel’s market-defining technology is providing a critical, enabling service on which the future of UTM, especially in controlled airspace, will be built across the globe.

He is moderately active on LinkedIn, posting mostly about Altitude Angel, but worth following him here.

Bobby Healy - Manna

Bobby Healy was first active in the gaming industry, where he was working for Nintendo as a game developer. He moved on to the aviation sector, which he found to be an ever-changing and rapidly expanding environment that was ready for some new ideas. Following the successful sale of Eland Technologies (an airline tech company), he decided to give aviation a go one more time. That is how 15 years have passed with him at the helm of CarTrawler, i.e. the world’s largest mobility marketplace for airlines. As he is not the one to retire early, he decided that it was time to change the fabric of retailing and small businesses around the globe. That is the goal of his latest project, the Irish startup Manna Drone Delivery

The company developed its own drone, which is able to reach the speed of 80 km/h and deliver groceries within a three-kilometre radius. 

The company now looks to kick off deliveries in the UK and the US following a USD 25 million investment it secured in the summer of 2021. In those markets, Manna will perfect its drone delivery-as-a-service business model. Bobby Healy’s company has already proven that drone delivery is real and a viable commercial venture.

In Oranmore and Balbriggan, Ireland, Manna is now working hand in hand with industry giants such as Tesco, drone-delivering 9,000 products out of the total of 26,000 that the local brick-and-mortar Tesco stocks.

“We had someone order a head of broccoli. Who orders a head of broccoli for drone delivery? The broccoli cost 79 cents - and then they paid €5 for the delivery,” said Bobby Healy in one of his interviews, confirming that there is a huge potential in drone deliveries. 

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) on May 21st issued its first ‘light UAS operator certificate’ (LUC) to Manna Aero and Manna Aero was the first company to apply for a LUC, following their recent trials of drone delivery services in rural Ireland.

Their successful application follows a rigorous assessment of their operational capabilities in line with the new EU drone regulations. The LUC is recognized in all EU Member States and provides drone operators with significant business opportunities across the single market.

We should say that Bobby is one of the most active social media user CEO in the industry, with more than 6500 followers on Twitter and 1500 followers on LinkedIn. We love his thoughts and constant interactions about innovation. Follow him here.

Nicolas Sonnet - Aeromapper

Nicolas is an expert in aerial imagery, has several years of experience in the field of aerial surveying, two MScs in Aeronautical Engineering, and a private pilot license. Over the weekends, he flies not only drones but also aeroplanes. He created Aeromapper in 2012 with two of his colleagues, Alexandre Gahide and Théodore Beauchant, and by now, they have grown to a 14 employees operation.  

They had the first long-range (72 km) SAIL 3 flight authorization with their partner THALES earlier in 2021. The company’s main activity is R&D, avionics systems (hard and soft), as well as C2 links; additionally, ground control stations are designed in-house. The company aims at being compliant with aeronautical standards and has been taking appropriate steps towards that goal since 2019. 

Today their main project is the Cerbere avionic suite. (No single point of failure, SAIL 4 compliant avionics suite). 

They have already accumulated thousands of BVLOS flight hours in operations in France and abroad. They believe that a machine is a tool, and ultimately data is the only thing that matters. This is why Aeromapper places a strong emphasis on developing data analysis tools that turn imagery into valuable decision-making tools. 

“We figured out that a small fixed-wing drone would be the perfect complement to typical mapping with twin turbine aircraft. We are very proud to be working with very important clients like Engie, Veolia, EDF, SNCF, TOTAL, Saur, GRTgaz, BOUYGUES Energies & Services”- Said Nicolas while talking about his most demanding projects. 

Follow him here for his thoughts about the industry in France. 

Anne Marie Haute - Pilgrim Technology 

Anne Marie Haute set up Pilgrim in 2012 with a vision to improve the safety of her inspection team by using drones and, later, robots. Following on setting up already 3 startups, with Pilgrim, she also leads operations on research by developing new techniques in image analysis and movement and safety of drones. 

Pilgrim Technology provides various services, such as visual inspections of infrastructures, thickness measurement, thermography, topography, 3D surveys of buildings a lot more. The company works with control offices (Bureau Veritas, Apave, Lloyds, DNV-GL, Velosi, SGS…) for major companies in Oil & Gas, Nuclear, and MRE sectors. 

Moreover, it is also a direct supplier to large groups such as Total, ENGIE, EDF, Naval Group and the French Army, to name just a few. Monitoring and inspection of ships were always in focus for Pilgrim.

”We are developing numerous robotic solutions and are currently carrying out delivery tests with an 8kg drone (including a 4.5kg payload) at the Rungis International Market. We have also developed a drone adopted to the mountain and sea rescue (9.5 kg payload with lidar)” -said Anne Marie Haute during our short interview. 

Follow Anne here for insights about inspections and surveys with drones in Europe. 

Jaime Pereira - Aerocomaras

Jaime Pereira is the founder and CEO of Aerocamaras, a benchmark in the RPAS industry in Spain and co-founder of Drone to Yacht, the drone delivery company. He has been a professional pilot since 1999. Pereira decided to create his own drone operator company in 2007. What started as a personal project has rapidly become the number one drone pilot school in Spain with more than 30 flight centres worldwide, currently expanding into Latin America and Europe. Jaime Pereira has developed Aerocamaras' R+D+i team, which created the Aerohyb Hexacopter, a hybrid UAV with more than 7 hours of flight autonomy. The company uses it in different professional services (agriculture, topography, audiovisual, photography or emergencies and security), making Aerocamaras a multiservice provider with drones. Aerocamaras collaborates with national and international companies, the Spanish national police, fire brigades, audiovisual media and more. Currently, specialized Aerocamaras pilots train people weekly, both individuals and groups, who wish to fly drones recreationally or professionally in all territories of Spain and Europe. 

Jaime found it extremely important to expand the company operations during the first few years. By now, Aerocamaras also performs inspections of wind turbines and assist other operators in obtaining the necessary authorizations to fly in controlled airspace, at night or over cities. 

Follow Jamie here.

For part II, come back to the DroneTalks page soon. If you find our article useful, share it on your social media channels or leave us a comment. 

If you wish to write to us, email at info@dronetalks.online

About the authors

Joanna Wieczorek

Joanna is DroneTalks senior business development manager. She has been supporting aviation companies in legal and public relations aspects for 17 years now.  She has worked for leading air carriers on the European market and for many global aviation entities - manned and unmanned.  She has unique experience in representing companies before the Civil Aviation Authority and in working with Air Navigation Service Providers. With regard to aviation sector entities, she specializes in antitrust law, intellectual property law, environmental protection issues (including aviation noise), as well as new technology and personal data protection.   She is the author of the social campaign concerning digitization and integration of manned aviation with drones, carried out at Warsaw’s Chopin Airport, which was partnered by the Ministry of Digitization and 20 companies from the drone sector. She has been organizing many conferences and webinars devoted to drones and to the airline business.

Follow Joanna on LinkedIn

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