By Eric Peterson | Jan 20, 2020
Industry: Electronics & Aerospace
Products: Ground radar systems
SpotterRF makes ground-based surveillance radar systems to protect critical infrastructure. After initially targeting the defense industry, the company pivoted to commercial market in 2013, and electrical utilities emerged as primary customers.
Coming with a background in tech, Critchfield took over as president and CEO in 2019. "My background I classify as enterprise software and solutions across many vertical markets," he says.
Utilities are now supplemented government, correctional facilities, and airports as growing markets for the company as SpotterRF is able to provide an effective radar security solution at a mid-market price point. "We've been able to drive the price down," says Critchfield.
With technology that's able to detect very small objects at several hundred meters, SpotterRF company created a market between traditional radar systems and cameras supplemented by thermal or vibration tripwires. "We are still the smallest, most compact, and simplest ground radar on the market," says Brad Solomon, SpotterRF's VP of business development.
SpotterRF now offers a dozen different models of ground radar systems for different environments: urban, suburban, and large installations. "Every need on the ground is a little bit different," aadds Solomon. "Over the past three or four years, we've really focused on not just ground perimeter intrusion, but also on drone detection and counter-UAS. That's been a driver as well. We have patented designs on different sensors for detecting and tracking drones in your airspace."
The counter-drone market is anchored by SpotterRF's patented 3D-500 geofence system, which Solomon likens to "an invisible iron dome generated by one sensor." He adds, "With a single sensor, you can detect and track a drone, and measure all three dimensions in real space. . . . That's unique to us. No one else is doing that."
Early adopters include correctional facilities, airports, and military facilities.
About 60 percent of sales are to customers in the U.S., as the international market has grown substantially in recent years. "Everywhere needs security," says Solomon. "Pacific Rim, Latin America, and Europe -- all over the place."
SpotterRF was a spinoff of a spinoff: Provo-based traffic radar maker Wavetronix spun off IMSAR in 2004, and the Springville-based IMSAR in turn spun off SpotterRF five years later.
The company works with a number of manufacturing partners in Utah and finishes the products at its 23,000-square-foot facility. "We design all of our own hardware boards and do the assemblies in-house, and of course the software, too," says Critchfield, noting that about 10 percent of the employees work on production/assembly.
Touts Solomon: "We are the only ground radar that's fully made in the U.S.A. All of our sub-assemblies are made in the United States, and we do all of the major assembly here. We do a lot of our own prototyping and R&D. If there's a problem with the supply chain, we can do all of our production in-house."
Growth "will stay the same if not accelerate," says Critchfield. "We continue to look for 50 percent growth year-over-year." He attributes SpotterRF's trajectory to "the right people at the right time."
Challenges: Labor "is still our number-one challenge," says Critchfield, citing needs "everywhere," including sales, R&D, and engineering.
SpotterRF has allowed for a remote workforce in order to fill open positions. "We think it's a real advantage," he adds.
Opportunities: Solomon says the company is established with "top-tier" critical electrical infrastructure, but lower-tier facilities and substations remain a ripe market for SpotterRF's "lower-cost radars for smaller areas."
Domestic sales and exports "are both trending upwards," he adds.
Needs: "We are always trying to expand our technical partners that'll give us local boots on the ground, especially on the international front," says Solomon. "Many times, our product works even better in conjunction with other technologies, so we're constantly looking for those kind of companies."