Photography jobs

Lakeland’s Catapult of the Year Brings a Worldview to Aerial Photography

A young entrepreneur from Lakeland flies high and gives us a glimpse of his point of view.

Rut Patel is the founder of Voyager Aerial Engineering, a drone company, based out of Catapult, a business incubator in Lakeland.

The 27-year-old Indian came with his parents to the United States seven years ago. He had limited English skills, but within three days of moving overseas from his home country, he got his first job at Dairy Queen in Bartow, earning $8 an hour.

“I took one step and the path became a lot clearer. I took another step, and another step, and things just started to fall into place,” he told FOX. 13. “I didn’t expect things to happen so quickly.”

Determined to succeed, he founded Voyager a few years later. In addition to making drones, Patel now flies his own for companies like Tampa Electric Company and Florida Power and Light.

One recent morning, he sent his drone to check out a new multi-story building being built by Summit, another of his clients in downtown Lakeland.

“Sending people is very dangerous,” he said. “You can send a drone, and that creates faster, safer, and more accurate data.”

His meteoric rise has not gone unnoticed. His fellow entrepreneurs voted him Catapult of the Year.

“I was unexpected, but amazing,” he said of the commendation, which is awarded to someone who seems to have the drive and potential to achieve something big.

“Someone the other members look up to. Someone who does something unique,” said Christin Strawbridge, president of Catapult.

With a few more years of business under his belt, Patel has already determined his ultimate goal: “To create products and create drones that are used for good,” in this country and around the world.