Tom Caska: alumni profile
- Image: Tom Caska and business partner -
Life for CCGS alumnus, Tom Caska 2001 has certainly had its twists and turns. After studying to be a pilot and flying for Qantas, he had a life-threatening kite surfing accident and lost his license to fly. Resilient and driven, he turned to study. Determined to succeed, he has built the 'Uber for Drones'.
What has been your path since graduating from CCGS in 2001?
After school, I went straight to Sydney University and studied Science as I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I went to St Paul’s College and lived on campus – both my older brothers were still there at the time. I made some lifelong friends.
After this first year, I changed universities and went to the University of NSW to study Aviation. I wanted to become an airline pilot. After three years, I gained my Bachelor of Aviation and my commercial pilot license. The aviation industry had taken a massive hit post 911 so I decided to stay back at university and do my honours year.
I then moved to Broome and did some ‘bush flying’, cutting my teeth at the coal face and earning a few thousand flying hours flying lots of little planes. It was dangerous but lots of fun!
In 2010, I joined Qantas Link flying the Dash 8 Q400 in Cairns which fuelled a desire to do kite surfing. I loved it so much, I'd be out almost every day.
In 2015 I had a massive kite surfing accident and broke my neck. I snapped the C7 vertebrae and was airlifted to Cairns hospital before being flown down to Sydney Prince of Wales in a lear jet where Dr Marc Coughlan put me back together. There was a long stint in rehab after this and I ended up losing my medical certificate to fly – so basically, I lost my entire career overnight.
I decided I’d do the next best thing and I started to fly drones, mainly doing aerial photography and research and development projects with universities and industry. Drones were just starting to become a thing.
During this time I went back to university (AGSM School of Business at UNSW business school) to do my MBA. It was here I met a like-minded entrepreneur and we decided to do something together. We brainstormed ideas and decided to build the 'Uber for Drones'. Aerologix was founded in 2019.
10 years ago, most of us would never have heard of drones, since then there has been a significant increase in drone innovation and uptake of drone use from hobbyists to commercial use. What do you love most about the drone industry?
Oh yes … the rate of advancement in drone technology over the past ten years has been at breakneck speed (pun intended). I put it down to the combination and culmination of a few different technologies. Computer chips were getting smaller and much faster, wireless communication was becoming much better and could support heavy bandwidth of information, GPS and nanotech were also becoming much more widespread. Oh, and battery technology leapt forward about 10 years overnight – so these flying robots were not only becoming smarter but could start to fly around for much longer than ever before. The industry took note and the age of drones was upon us.
My favourite thing about the drone industry is you can solve some big industry problems – for example, delivery of medical goods to remote areas, this is something we are working on right now. We can carry blood, vaccines and other important medical equipment on board the drone using our 12 000 drone pilot and purpose-built software.
What is the proudest moment from your post-school life?
Well, I don’t have any kids (yet) … so I’d have to say it was receiving a letter of offer from Qantas to be an airline pilot. This was my childhood dream but it seemed out of reach when I left school. I got to fly my parents on one of my flights. It was really cool when I gave them a shout-out on the PA system …. I’m sure they were slightly embarrassed but ultimately very proud. They were the reason I was able to become a pilot in the first place. Thanks Mum and Dad!
What trait has been most vital in helping you succeed?
Resilience. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the class or even close, to be honest. You just need to be able to keep going and never give up. I was a pretty average student, particularly in my younger years. I was in remedial classes until about Year 8. I struggled to learn and concentrate but when I found something I was passionate about I would go all in and become obsessed.
Being resilient gives you a superpower to keep going. This is how I have managed to build a company and become an entrepreneur even after breaking my neck.
Outside of aviation, what are you passionate about?
Surfing, cycling and playing the guitar and spending time with my family.
10 years ago you perhaps didn’t imagine this is what life would look like now for you, where do you see the next 10 years taking you?
My life has certainly taken a few twists and turns. I didn’t think I’d end up running a tech company that’s for sure. However, the way things have panned out I could not be happier. It’s funny when things happen in your life you might not know at the time it could be for the best, we just cannot predict what will happen. So when things do go astray, keep in the back of your mind this might end up putting you in a better position, and this can be in your personal or professional life.
The next 10 years for me? Well, I’d like to have a family and scale the business around the globe. We will be expanding in Europe and North America soon. I consider myself a global citizen, probably because I love to travel. If I can do this while growing my company, then it aligns well with my life goals and passions.
What CCGS experience or achievement most prepared you for where you are today?
I’d have to say the friends I made in school. We have a group of about 10 of us who catch up all the time. We go on surf trips together, hang out when we can and support each other when times get tough. CCGS helped foster a really great environment for making lifelong friends – house family, the teachers, sports and school camps were awesome! Having surrounded myself with a great peer group has helped so much. Thanks CCGS!
What advice would you give to your high school self?
Not to worry about the future so much – you have years to figure out what you want to do. Take the gap year, go exploring, and have fun! I went straight to university. Now I wish I had time off and just explored the world or learned another language. Kids should not feel pressured to go straight into a career unless they are really sure of it and want to. Life’s a journey. It’s not an emergency. You need to enjoy the ride. Live, love, learn!