Don Mohr with a new stereo plotter, 1969

Don Mohr, founder of AeroMetric, passed away on Dec. 25, 2012, but his legacy lives on.

When AeroMetric first opened its doors 44 years ago, founder Don Mohr realized his dream of owning his own business. A very driven and hardworking man, Mohr accomplished this goal before turning 40.

He began his career as a surveyor with the U.S. Forest Service, and later spent 10 years at Chicago Aerial Survey, where he started as a survey manager and quickly rose through the ranks to become general manager. In 1969, he handpicked three men to join his team and started the company that was originally known as Aero-Metric Engineering Inc. I was placed in charge of surveying, production and drafting; Andrew Piscitello served as the chief photogrammetrist and George Jihlavec ran the photo lab. Shortly thereafter, Robert Johanning, RLS joined the team as our survey coordinator, and Allan Depies became our chief financial officer.

As a small company, each of us had to wear many hats. Our first project came through while Don was on the road drumming up business. Although it was a small project of about one square mile in Adell, Wis., we jumped right in. I organized the ground control tasks, George made the diapositives and Andy did the mapping. Prior to joining AeroMetric, each of us had been in management and supervisor roles, so it was an empowering experience for us to go back to being the production team for the sake of building a foundation for the company. Don encouraged our team by telling us that the firm, in the future, would benefit from our hard work and dedication.

Serving as the CEO of the company gave Don the freedom to realize his vision of a successful professional mapping company, starting with putting the client’s needs front and center. He was always focused on doing what was best for the client and on building relationships that fostered repeat business. He understood that providing excellent service, competitive pricing and top-notch quality were key strategies to growing a sustainable enterprise. This philosophy has been ingrained into the company culture.

Don was recognized in the profession as a visionary and was quick to detect trends in the market early on. A natural leader, he could communicate his vision to the team clearly, enabling us to rally around his ambitious goals and turn them into a reality.

Don Mohr introducing the new Aero-Metric building, 1972

One example of his vision was pioneering the use of color aerial photography. Don believed that color would be the future of the profession, so he decided early on that it would be a worthwhile investment to build a color photo lab. AeroMetric was the first to introduce color photogrammetry to the market and was the exclusive producer of color aerial photography for nearly 15 years.

Don’s visionary reach extended far beyond AeroMetric’s doors and into the development of the entire photogrammetry profession. He was a founding member of the Legislative Council on Photogrammetry (LCP), which is known today as MAPPS, one of the strongest professional organizations in the U.S.

During his career at AeroMetric, Don maintained the reputation of being one of the most competitive businessmen in the profession. One project of note that illustrates this was a large request for proposals taking place overseas. AeroMetric did not win the contract, but rather than taking the loss as a defeat, Don used it as an opportunity to research our competitors and dig deep into what factors contributed to the outcome. Thanks to this effort, we were able to gain valuable insight on areas where AeroMetric could improve on future proposals. One of Don’s strengths as a businessman and leader was to use every experience as a chance for growth and future advancement.

After serving as AeroMetric’s CEO for 21 years, Don decided to step down in 1990, thus allowing me to move into the role. He based his decision to retire on his sense that the next era of photogrammetry was on the horizon, and in 1990, he was proved correct yet again as the digital age was about to explode. He knew the time was right for the company to make a transition in leadership to support these coming changes.

Don’s professionalism was well-known, and he was looked upon as a mentor to many who were up-and-coming in the profession. The legacy that Don has left behind is truly immeasurable. His generosity with his time for others even after retirement emphasized his ongoing commitment to the success of AeroMetric and the advancement of the geospatial profession. Through his work at AeroMetric and professional associations, he has left a profound influence on an entire generation of photogrammetrists and the profession as a whole. He was a truly remarkable man, one that played as hard as he worked; he enjoyed life to the fullest. He will be missed.


Editor’s note: A longer version of this article appears on AeroMetric’s blog, AeroMetric Insight.