UVT’s Chief Executive Officer and founder Chris Fink was recently inducted into the prestigious NWA Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 2022 class. We are immensely proud of all he does for our company and the industries and communities we serve. Chris’s journey to this point is one of hard work, honesty, and service to those in need, and we would like to take this opportunity to reflect on all of it.
Humble Beginnings in Drone Sales
Since establishing Unmanned Vehicle Technologies (UVT) in 2014, Northwest Arkansas-native Fink and his wife Kayo have grown their Fayetteville drone and robotics dealership to support more than 2,400 government agencies and businesses, making UVT one of the largest dealers in North America.
The road to UVT began in Florida, where Fink pursued property photography using drones as a way to pay for his drone hobby. Fink’s natural knack for technology and talking to people, along with an entrepreneurial spirit he credits to his mother, led to more and more opportunities. He built a strong reputation with the community through consistently being an available expert on UAVs, answering drone questions in-person and on Facebook.
Through a connection he met through a class at Unmanned Vehicles University, Fink expanded UVT’s services and invested in his first set of drones to sell. He would make these first drone sales through a simple Shopify site, although many sales were also made out of his car as he drove to service various construction sites.
The Finks relocated to Fayetteville in 2017, and UVT HQ opened its doors shortly after. Less than a year later, Fink hired his first employee, and UVT has continued to grow from there.
UVT's Evolution: Drone Leasing and Support
In addition to selling and leasing robotics, aerial and underwater drones, and tethered support implements — along with complementary software — Fink and UVT provide repairs, 24-hour support, and comprehensive training to the organizations that purchase from them, typically for clients in the utility, construction, and public service industries.
UVT’s work has a particular emphasis on first responders, as Chris is committed to serving those who serve us — he founded UVT to ensure our nation's first responders always have a resource they can rely on when duty calls.
Fink and UVT train and offer in-person drone assistance to their clients often. One instance in 2019, UVT was demonstrating the public safety application of drones at the Bentonville Fire Department when the United Industries Ultraboard manufacturing plant was set on fire.
The team accompanied the firefighters to the scene, and together they used UVT’s drones with thermal cameras to acquire an aerial perspective and monitor the temperature of combustible propane tanks, sparing first responders from unnecessary harm and saving much of the facility.
As a thought leader in the commercial drone industry, many of Fink’s longtime clients are industry leaders who originally came to him for advice or repairs they were apprehensive to make themselves.
They have since entrusted Fink with building and maintaining their drone fleets. He regularly shares his expertise at forums like the Public Safety UAS Workshop hosted by Kansas State University, PiXL Drone Show, Arkansas Drone Summit, TCC Partners on Public Safety Drone Conference, and more.
Beyond Drones: Serving Our Community
Fink’s past career as a 9-1-1 telecommunicator for the City of Rogers has fueled his drive to support local government agencies.
Beyond his strong relationship with the Bentonville Fire Department, Fink regularly works with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Washington County Office of Emergency Management, Arkansas State Police, and Arkansas Game & Fish — the latter two state agencies operate heavily in Northwest Arkansas.
He also works with the Ozarks Electric Cooperative to help them provide power to many homes and businesses in the region.
The University of Arkansas’ Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies consults Fink to assist with their research of geospatial data, and the UAPD has worked with Fink during events such as the NCAA Super Regionals to track traffic patterns and monitor potentially violent tailgating areas.
In his free time, Fink has visited several Northwest Arkansas public school districts like Fort Smith and Rogers to foster youth interest in drones and robotics, and attended the Arkansas SkillsUSA Event at the Peak Innovation Center to speak to children about related career and educational opportunities.
Towards The Future
When asked about what he hopes for the future of UVT, Fink said that he sees the company “continuing to grow.” He also hopes to further expand UVT’s services into other spaces, such as autonomous, ground, underwater and hospitality robots.
Fink also plans for UVT to begin offering more comprehensive Drones as First Responder (DFR) programs. Strategically stationed around a jurisdiction, drones capable of being remotely piloted are being introduced as first responders nation-wide. As evidenced by the DJI Drone Rescue Map, these drones are helping public safety officials to save lives.
No matter where the future takes UVT, Fink said he sees the company “remaining honest” and continuing to “master what we sell.” Under his leadership, UVT will certainly accomplish both!