Lakeland's Catapulter of the Year brings world view to aerial photography

A young entrepreneur in Lakeland is flying high – and giving us a peek from 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 from India came with his parents to the US seven years ago. He had limited English language skills, but within three days of moving overseas from his home country, he secured his first job at Dairy Queen in Bartow, making $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 falling into place," he told FOX 13. "I didn’t expect things to happen this quickly."

Determined to be a success, he founded Voyager a few years later. Along with manufacturing drones, Patel now flies his own for companies like Tampa Electric Company and Florida Power and Light.

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

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

His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed. Fellow entrepreneurs voted him Catapulter of the Year.

"I was unexpected, but amazing," he said of the commendation, which is given to someone who appears to have the drive and potential to achieve something great.

"Someone that other members look up to. Someone who is doing something unique," explained Christin Strawbridge, president of Catapult.

With still only a few 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 worldwide.