K-State Polytechnic helps alumnus Kirk Demuth lay groundwork for career as aerial data collection executive
Aviation has been the focus of Kirk Demuth’s interests since he was a child. Growing up on a farm in southwest Kansas, one of his favorite things to do was climb to the top of the grain bins on his family’s property and watch local crop dusters spray the cornfields.
“It was like having your own private airshow with front row seats!”
Now the chief operating officer of an aerial geospatial data collection company, aviation could certainly be a metaphor for Demuth’s path in life…on the ascent.
Before making the climb to his current executive role, the 2007 alumnus credits K-State Polytechnic with laying the foundation at which his career was able to take off. Prior to arriving on campus as a student, Demuth earned his private pilot certificate at a small airport near his home. Right away, he saw the benefit of obtaining his associate degree in professional pilot.
“Being surrounded by fellow students, friends and flight instructors also pursing their careers in aviation was an invaluable resource of my training,” he said, “which was hard to come by in the Part 61 environment. As I started my career post-graduation, that peer network was important when it came to finding employment, starting an aviation business and staffing that business.”
Demuth also received a bachelor’s degree in technology management from K-State Polytechnic where he took courses concentrated in business and management. Having a foundation in accounting, finance, economics, communication and leadership merged well with his aviation background because it inspired him to have an entrepreneurial spirit and think beyond the airlines.
“It gave me the confidence needed to take the risk of starting my own business and adequately prepared me for that challenge.”
After graduating and before becoming a business owner, Demuth connected his manned aviation experience with unmanned aircraft systems. Following two years as a UAS chase pilot for the military’s Predator and Reaper drones, he returned to K-State Polytechnic in 2009 as the manager of the campus’s UAS program – which, at that time, had been recently created – and then again in 2012 as the program’s chief UAS pilot.
During his time as a staff member, Demuth assisted in building the UAS undergraduate program’s initial flight training curriculum and established the aircraft fleet for training and research. He supported student instruction and research initiatives as well as served as the UAS Club’s advisor. One of Demuth’s largest contributions was leading the effort to obtain an FAA Certificate of Authorization to fly unmanned aircraft statewide, which was a critical first move in K-State Polytechnic’s ability to develop the UAS flight training program.
In 2014, Demuth launched his own aerial mapping and imagery processing company called RoboFlight Systems, later DBA AgPixel. Once again, his alma mater played a role in his career success. Demuth and his roommate in the residence halls, Daniel Melia, partnered on the start-up and grew the business to 30 employees with operations throughout the United States and seven countries.
Continuing the upward trajectory, Demuth has been the COO at Air Data Solutions for two years now. The company specializes in collecting and processing rapid response, ultra-high-resolution aerial imagery data, captured by both manned and unmanned aircraft. Demuth’s role is to ensure all data acquisition operations are completed safely, to customer specifications, within budget and on time. He manages standardization training, multiple pilots and aircraft, equipment maintenance and project schedules. In addition, Demuth is forward-looking and develops quarterly forecasting as well as long-term market strategies.
Demuth says working in UAS-related fields has given him the opportunity to travel and see the world, and collaborate with a variety of industries. As a gadget’s geek, he gets to operate cutting-edge aircraft, sensors and other technology. And with UAS operations progressing exponentially on the regulatory and technological fronts, it’s exciting to be a part of a field with continuous innovation.
“The future is very bright for unmanned aircraft systems, and it seems appropriate to say, ‘the sky’s the limit.’”
From a small-town farm boy to a student then staffer, entrepreneur and now executive, Demuth’s endeavors are flying high, and it also seems fitting to say the sky is the limit.