CWRU Entrepreneur’s drone business blends tech, nature with STEM education

India Johnson

Watch the video interview!

CWRU Entrepreneur India Johnson (CWR ‘17) is the founder and CEO of UAVistas, an aerial data collection and processing business that conducts mapping and Digital Elevation Model (DEM) generation via drone. 

While at CWRU, Johnson was a biology major and tutor whose studies overlapped with computer science. Her interest in blending “tech and nature” is what led her to starting her own business. An early introduction to the CWRU LaunchNET team developed into an application—and then a win—in the Morgenthaler-Pavey Startup Competition.

Her business grew over the years as a side hustle while she worked at the Cleveland Metroparks, was a guest on the Lay of the Land podcast and continued to receive mentoring and support from CWRU. 

“Initially I started all the drone stuff on the side as a way to make extra money,” she said. “I needed a side hustle, I needed to pay off my student loans. I wanted to do drone work as it relates to natural resources, to ecology, to using tech and using AI in that space.”

After a serendipitous layoff, she decided to go all-in as an entrepreneur and work as a CEO full-time. And after working in the field, people began to reach out about a new revenue stream for her: educational workshops.

“Schools were really interested and I honestly wasn’t expecting that,” Johnson recalled. 

As she began to work with the teachers to provide workshops for schools, she started to notice that some of the students didn’t have the type of exposure to technology that she did as a kid.

“The field I’m in, being a drone pilot—[there are] not a lot of women, not a lot of minorities. So getting more women and minorities their certifications, getting them to become drone pilots, is really important to me,” she said.

“[The kids] didn’t really know you could make a career out of it. Then when I started talking about things like drones in agriculture […] they didn’t know about these things, even in high school.”

The more she worked with kids, the more STEM education became a part of her mission at UAVistas.

Her advice for budding entrepreneurs?

“Regardless of where you want to be, talk to a lot of people. People who have been there, people who have done that, people who are adjacent to the field, in the field. Talk to people, interview them, get advice from them. It’s always worth it.”

Johnson is planning on joining the CWRU Entrepreneurship team at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January as she continues to work full-time in her business. We wish her the best of luck!