WiscLift founders Scott Williams and his wife, Greta, started a nonprofit doing conservation work in 2012 as a response to the devastating growth of rhino poaching in South Africa. Reserve Protection Agency (RPA) designed the tethered drone application as part of a multi-layered approach. At first it was questioned: in a world where everyone seeks to go wireless, why go back to being plugged in? But the idea was to counteract the limited drone battery life while having the ability to be powered by a moving patrol vehicle.
A student from the Purdue School of Engineering reached out to help, and a relationship was born. That student, Rahul Tiwari, went on to become the CEO of Spooky Action, a drone company based out of Minneapolis. Once the payload was able to support a flying network, the original anti-poaching concept was expanded to cover a myriad of global issues.
Co-founder Greta Krueger Williams remembers it well, “When our paths crossed—at just that right moment—I’m not sure anyone could predict the outcome. We were in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Rahul was a Sophomore at the Purdue School of Engineering. He wanted to change the world. We were exhausted from years of trying to do just that.”
They tasked this young man–gave him some ideas and a drone they’d been working on for years with minimal funding. Three days later he phoned: “I’m done. Can I fly to South Africa and show you?” A small seed of positivity began to grow and continued blooming.
Greta continues, “After Rahul’s 3rd trip to South Africa, he became like family—and the reality that something big was on the horizon was clear. That’s what happens when a young, brilliant mind with technical genius, resources & support meets an old man with leadership skills, an entrepreneurial mind and a crazy rolodex of contacts.”
Fast forward through an international move back to northern Wisconsin, assimilating their kids into an American lifestyle, finding employment, making a home. This drone project kept popping back up in their lives. Little bits here and there, slow and steady. But when Covid-19 hit, the pandemic impacted the lives of everyone sending the message loud and clear: this project needed to be fast-tracked.
From Reserve Protection Agency, to the “tethered drone” concept, to Spooky Action, to WiscLift—it seems like a lifetime ago that we met that 19-year-old kid who brought us back to the reality that we could indeed change the world.