Troy Mestler *11 experienced “flight” for the first time when his dad took him bungee jumping at 8 years old. Now, Mestler is the CEO of a hybrid-electric drone company that recently set a world record for drone-flight duration at 4 hours and 34 minutes.
Interest in aviation runs deep in Mestler’s family: One uncle was a World War II a fighter pilot, another had his own jet plane, and his father was a skydiver. Mestler spent his childhood hang gliding and paragliding.“I’m very used to being in the air and I just loved the idea of human flight,” Mestler said. “It bred in me a characteristic for seeking adventure and that has stuck with me.”
The continued interest in aviation led Mestler to create his drone company, Skyfront, in 2014 after he realized the limitations of existing drone technology.
“I bought this drone, I was flying it around, and I realized it could only do 15-20 minutes of flight time. And I knew that this was going to be a problem that we needed to solve if we wanted to use drones commercially at scale,” he said. “How useful would a Boeing-747 be if it could only travel a 100 miles as opposed to 10,000? And how expensive that would be to do air travel! It’s the same problem for drones and unmanned air systems. That was the genesis of the company.”
Before starting Skyfront, Mestler attended Duke University for his bachelor’s degree and Princeton for his PhD, both in physics. He also spent three years at an early-stage startup in New York City. For Mestler, this combination of experiences is what enabled him to successfully face the everyday challenges that come with leading a technology company
“It’s very, very challenging — every aspect of it,” he said. “Not only the technology, not only the engineering, but the business as well, and there’s tons of problems that need to be solved. And I think that’s what keeps me so engaged.”
When Mestler first set out, he faced skepticism that his idea would ever come into fruition. His background in physics, however, pushed him to seek the truth for himself, even after seasoned experts told him what he’d envisioned was not possible. “It is, because we did it,” he said. “The training in physics helped us see through that, because there’s what people believe, and then there’s the truth.”