Kyler Kaeser thrives on pursuing solutions

Kyler poses with his best (furry) friend at TechFarms, where a mine-detecting drone has been developed.

Photo: Kyler poses with his best (furry) friend at TechFarms, where a mine-detecting drone has been developed.

By Steve Bornhoft

Kyler Kaeser entitled himself to a gap year after exiting a Pensacola startup that he had helped a friend launch and scale.

He traveled to Egypt and Greece, jumped from an airplane, dove off a cliff and hung out in the Pacific Northwest where he enjoyed a culture that he describes as “young, hip and expensive.”

All of this speaks to Kaeser’s fondness for adrenaline rushes and his desire to be on the leading edge of things.

“I like to find myself in chaotic situations,” Kaeser said. “I do well in high-pressure, high-stress scenarios. I tend to favor them, including times when perhaps I shouldn’t.”

In the same vein, Kaeser likes tackling problems and advancing solutions much more so than presiding over established operations. So it was that he reached a point where he was ready to depart Lane Shark USA, a manufacturer of rotary bush-hogging attachments for tractors that was founded by a good friend, Travis Odom.

For a time, the pair assembled Land Shark products in Odom’s garage and made sales calls at tractor dealers on weekends. Then, after a video produced by Kaeser performed exceptionally well on Facebook, the business took off. Sales grew by 700% in a single year.

Lane Shark was in its incubation phase at the Cowork Annex in Pensacola when Kaeser met TechFarms Capital managing director Kelly Reeser. She in turn introduced him to TechFarms founder and ArroTech CEO Steve Millaway.

Millaway immediately saw Kaeser as a good candidate to work on ArroTech’s mine-detecting drone project. Kaeser, however, was not yet ready to jump the Shark.

Three years later, the time was right. Kaeser signed on as an ArroTech contractor in April 2024 after engaging in thorough due diligence about the company and studying the unmanned aerial vehicle landscape. He remains an equity partner in Lane Shark.

At ArroTech, Kaeser is involved, he said, in arriving at the “high-level systems architecture” that the company will require as it moves from product development to manufacturing, sales and distribution.

Not long after joining the ArroTech team, Kaeser departed for Poland and Croatia, where he spent a generous amount of time with Tobias Leininger, the chief technical officer at ArroTech.

He also met with Ryan Hendrickson, a retired Green Beret and the founder and director of a nonprofit, Tip of the Spear Landmine Removal, Inc.

Hendrickson was part of a detachment tasked with clearing Taliban soldiers out of the Chutu Valley in Afghanistan in September 2010 when he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and sustained severe injuries to his right leg. After a lengthy rehabilitation period, he made an incredible return to active duty. 

Today, both Kaeser and Hendrickson are residents of West Florida when not on the road.

In Zagreb, Croatia, the two men attended a demining conference/exposition that was conducted outdoors in the shell of an unfinished hospital. Even as the conference was taking place, special forces from countries throughout Europe were performing demonstrations involving live fire and explosive ordnance.

“It was apocryphal,” Kaeser said of the scene.

Apocryphal and also productive. Kaeser met with experts who are establishing industry standards for handheld metal detectors. He met the makers of a detonation drone that explodes mines with a shotgun round.

He introduced a representative of CEIA Electromagnetic Inspection Systems, which supplies Hendrickson with metal detectors, to the capabilities of ArroTech’s GEON E61 drone.

“He was very impressed that we can see very small amounts of metal,” Kaeser said. “A metal detector mounted on a drone that is capable of mapping the locations of PFM-1 mines is incredible.”

Russia continues to use PFM-1 mines, sometimes called petal or butterfly mines, even though they were banned at an international mine convention in 1997. Small in size and deployed from mortars, planes and helicopters, the mines rotate like a maple seed as they gently fall to the ground. They are 90 percent plastic and contain just a couple grams of metal.

“They are the most brutal of all the mines,” Kaeser said. “They are designed not to kill, but to maim. They get picked up by children or anyone who does not recognize them as a mine, and they are easily detonated.”

Kaeser added that thousands of PFM-1s can be scattered in a matter of minutes.

“They are a top priority for removal, and they are also the hardest to detect,” Kaeser added. “The fact that our drone can see one tells me that we are on the right path.”

Kaeser made contacts with the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and with a maker of inert mines that ArroTech will use in testing and in gathering more algorithms for use in detection. They are exact replicas of the real thing, minus explosives.

At this writing, Kaeser anticipates that the testing will take place on 10 acres that Hendrickson owns at his home in Pace, Florida. Coincidentally, the inert mine contact that Kaeser met in Croatia is from Pensacola. He and Hendrickson are well acquainted. 

Kaeser grew up in the small town of Cantonment and worked after graduating from Pensacola’s Tate High School for the Community Action Program Committee, a federally funded anti-poverty nonprofit. Kaeser managed 17 buildings occupied by organizations such as Head Start in an area stretching from Century to West Pensacola — until Odom suggested that he go full time with Lane Shark.                

As a boy, he was greatly influenced by a grandfather who was a hobbyist carpenter and fashioned toys, cabinets, dressers and more.

“Whenever I wanted something, he told me we could create it ourselves,” Kaeser recalled. “And he was right. He was my inspiration and idol; he taught me to believe in making the impossible possible.”

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