Telluride Venture Accelerator: Mountain Drones Inc.

If I say “drones,” you say….?

Drones have received a lot of bad press and breathless hype, which has slowed down their acceptance by regulators as well as by the general public.

Mountain Drones

Are drones strikes legally justified in fight against terrorist? The jury is still out.

But strikes are just one application of unmanned aerial systems. All drones are not created equal.

Amazon, for one company, is pumped up about its cutting-edge drone delivery dreams,

And when you visit incredible places and have unforgettable adventures, you want to capture it all for posterity, no? How about instead of reaching for a selfie stick, you reach for a backpack – and toss a drone up into the air to film it all?

Drones can also perform valuable services like search and rescue and inspections that can’t easily or safely be done any other way.

In the Amazon rainforest, for example, using a custom UAV, the Amazon Basin Conservation Association is scanning large sections of rainforest in search of the illegal logging and mining that has reduced thousands of acres to bare soil.

And back home in Telluride…?

The Telluride Venture Accelerator, an initiative of the Telluride Foundation, is now working with Mountain Drones Inc. to bring the start-up’s dream to market reality.

Mountain Drones Inc. is all about designing, building, and operating customized unmanned aerial systems uniquely purposed for environmental monitoring missions and mountain safety operations. The company was initially focused exclusively on snow safety and mountain rescue operations, but has opened its umbrella wider and is now aiming to provide products and services related to environmental monitoring and hydrological data provision too. The ultimate goal? Using advanced drone technology to save clients time, money, and resources.

To underline the point, on July 1, Mountain Drones will introduce to market the V2 Mountain Drones prototype, the “Prospect.” The prototype will carry the first aerial Snow Water Equivalent sensor, which will revolutionize the way the world looks at water supply and how we manage our most vital  and increasingly challenged resource. Mountain Drone’s user interface will provide municipalities, water boards, and multinational companies the ability to make decisions around financial risk exposure, planning, and resource allocation with 1000x more data at less than half the cost of current collection and integration methodologies.

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Mountain Drones, Inc., the backstory:

Before Mountain Drones, there were a couple of ski buddies who hung out in Vail. If there was snow on the ground, Warren Linde, Brent Holbrook, and Robert Blank skied.

“Warren and I lived in Denver working corporate jobs and would shoot up I-70 to meet Brent who lived in Vail and worked at the Passport Club. We all felt a part of Vail and a part of something bigger- with the community, the mountains and the hours of freedom, joy, and friendship we shared while searching for fresh pow,” explained Robert.

Then one day the trio lost their friend Tony Seibert, grandson of Vail’s founder Pete Seibert, to an avalanche in the East Vail Chute.

Tony’s death was a tremendous loss for the entire community. We kept asking ourselves questions like  ‘Why did this happen?’ ‘Could we have done anything?’ ‘Is there a way to prevent this from happening again?’,” continues Robert. “There was an unspoken understanding between us: action was required in order to effect change. We also knew that we had to start at the root of the problem in order to solve it: Avalanche mitigation.”

Chocolate from caca. Lemons from lemonade. The insight, talent, and determination to perform that kind of alchemy is what separates the men from the entrepreneurs – and could turn ski bums into, well, moguls.

“The original idea was to use a drone to not only collect avalanche-related data including snowpack monitoring and predictive analytics tools to determine the likelihood of an avalanche, but also to build a tool to dramatically improve the way we manage that risk. Ski patrols are currently skinning up 12,000+ ft peaks in the most avalanche prone conditions with backpacks full of dynamite. What if we could do this differently? Prior to the official inception of the company, Brent was in Vail building a large multi-purpose hexacopter drone for this exact purpose, operating the business out of his living room for weeks. The company would be called ‘Mountain Drones.’ We were all in,” continues Robert.

Warren Linde, Robert Blank, Brent Holbrook of Mountain Drones Inc.

Warren Linde, Robert Blank, Brent Holbrook of Mountain Drones Inc.

Mountain Drones, the team:

Warren Linde studied finance and entrepreneurship and has a track record in sales from a career promoting financial products and services.

Brent Holbrook has a background in economics and has been building, tinkering, flying, and driving anything with a motor since he could work. Mountain Drones perfectly combines his twin passions –helping others and a love of drones specifically, technology in general and the environment.

Robert Blank has a background in environmental engineering and compliance. He previously worked with a oil and gas company to develop software and real-time database management solutions for environmental monitoring. He is in charge of integrating the sensors and mapping equipment for the drones’ data collection, along with executing on Mountain Drones safety and FAA compliance strategy.

“We are strategically located in Telluride, CO,  the headwaters for 80% of the western U.S. water supply. What a perfect location to develop our product and the integration of this sort of data to service our clients,” concluded Robert.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to what Robert, Brent and Warren have to say about Mountain Drones Inc. and the Telluride Venture Accelerator.

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