RALEIGH – The head of one of the fast-growing drone tech startups in the Triangle has been tapped to be a top drone policy advisor to the government.

Michael Chasen, CEO of Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk, will replace Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich as chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), it was announced today.

No doubt, it’s a personal achievement for the 40-something corporate exec (he declined to give his exact age), after serving as a committee member for the last two years.

But considering a post like this is usually filled by big names from even bigger public companies, to have a CEO of a relatively small private startup from Raleigh make the cut, is also a nod to the region.

“Quite frankly, it’s even more of an honor,” Chasen told WRAL TechWire ahead of the announcement.

“That’s a testament to the drone industry, the Triangle, as well as to PrecisionHawk. It goes to show that [we’re] recognized as a leader in the space.”

PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen.

The DAC is comprised of executives from 35 tech and drone companies (Amazon, Google, Boeing are among its members), and advises the FAA on key integration issues relating to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Since the FAA unveiled its drone regulations in 2016, the UAS industry has experienced exponential growth — with  commercial drone use predicted to triple by 2023.

But as Chasen admits, there’s still much work to be done when it comes to “integrating drone technology into the daily experience of both commercial entities and the consumer.”

“If anything, the committee is going to face an industry that is speeding up, and therefore might be needing its oversight even more quickly than we’ve been operating in the past,” said Chasen, who will begin his two-year term immediately.

“I’m looking forward to working closely with the FAA and the entire committee to make sure that we have the right framework to allow the industry to grow at the rate that we’re already tapping into.”

Chasen’s own meteoric rise

Like the drone industry itself, Chasen is also enjoying his own personal meteoric rise.

Back in 1999, the Connecticut-native co-founded Blackboard, a dotcom era startup that brought college curriculum and coursework online, eventually seeing the company through a $1.64 billion private equity buyout in 2012.

A year later, he started SocialRadar, a geo-location startup that raised $12.75 million from investors, which sold to Verizon in 2016.

Finally, in 2017, he joined PrecisionHawk as chief executive, replacing Bob Young, the company’s longtime investor and Red Hat founder. Under Chasen’s watch, PrecisionHawk has gone on to raise a whopping $75 million in new financing – three times what it had raised previously since launching in 2010.

However, he remains humble about the company’s growth.

“This industry is really starting to take off. We’re almost along for the ride. The growth that we’ve seen has really been organic.”

Still, it’s clear that Chasen is on a mission. Just last month, the company announced that it’s moving into bigger digs above Raleigh’s Milk Bar. It also plans to expand its workforce to a headcount north of 350 by the end of the year.

“I believe there is a chance that we’re going to be, if not already, in a position to be the single market leader in this space,” he said.

Drone survey cites North Carolina DOT as example of growing use

CEO: Drone tech startup PrecisionHawk getting new digs, adding jobs

PrecisionHawk acquires two companies with focus on energy sector