Leif Johan Holand

Our CEO, Leif Johan Holand, previously worked in the media industry flying and filming from helicopters. He used his experience to create GRIFF Aviation laying the foundations for the company we see today.

Play Video

When I was a student I started out in business school and then electrician school, but my real passion was photography and film, so as soon as I could I set up a film production company with my business partner. We were mostly working in corporate films, but I also worked for the Norwegian BBC as a photographer and an editor, and we were getting increasingly big commissions.

Then one day my partner shows me some footage that has been shot from a helicopter. It was aerial shots of my home town at sunset, all filmed on a hand-held camera, but still, I thought this is special. So as soon as I got an opportunity to film from a helicopter I grabbed it, and after that we’d always try to work a helicopter shoot into our corporate films!

The more we did, the better we got. And we then invested in better equipment, including advanced gyro gimbal technology, so that we could capture even more impressive shots. We were working in TV, and on big movie shoots for Norwegian and German film production companies too. It was great. Then suddenly we started to hear about drones being used for aerial filming. At first, we did not take them seriously, because the quality was just not the same, but of course, producers saw drones as way to cut budgets, and we realised this was a threat. So, in 2014, my business partner and I discussed what to do – and there and then we decided to make a prototype drone of our own.

“I’ve always wanted to push the limits from where I’m standing to where I’m going. That’s how we’ve managed to create something that has no parallel in the world. If your ambition is to create an aviation legend, then you must be totally uncompromising.”

Leif Johan Holand
Founder & CEO

The first prototype was made in my partner’s engineering company. It was super strong, but it was heavy and not the right design. We did our first redesign then – and this one looked good – but it was still not right. So we literally went back to the drawing board.  We talked to the regulators and certification companies so we could future-proof our aircraft. We learned how to think differently about our aircraft, how to focus on rules and regulations first, and then think about industrial design and manufacture, so that we could demonstrate compliance to our customers from the get-go.

Then we embarked on a full redesign, looking again at every component, and produced the early versions of the GRIFF. Throughout that process, one of the key things I learned is that there is no place for arrogance in aviation, but you do need confidence. You need to understand the knowledge you have today is not the knowledge you will have tomorrow, and be confident enough to change your mind and change direction when you need to push the limits and challenge convention.

Throughout my career, whatever I’ve done, I’ve wanted to do it best. But one guy can’t do everything, so I need the best people around me. You need the right team, the right partners, the right investors with everyone sharing a single uncompromising vision.

Today, the team amazes me every week. When you see the details, how the drone is designed and how it works, you just think this is breath-taking. We are all Googling, our partners and investors are Googling, but no one can find anything close to what we have created with the GRIFF. It’s taken a lot of research, a lot of hard work to get to where we are, but it takes time to create a real legend.

When I’m at the factory, after everyone has left, I will often walk around and pick up every part, and think how beautiful every part is, and reflect on what we’ve achieved with the beautiful design, the robustness and the airworthiness – all of which come together to make the GRIFF the best it can be. Then I remember this is still only year zero, and I reflect on what will come next, more power, more AI, all this will come, and I dream about what we will be able to do then. And that really excites me.