During a decade at General Atomics, Mike Ritter was embedded in defense solutions. Beginning there as a project engineer, he rose to become director of electro-optic systems in the company’s Aeronautical Systems division. His mission-system responsibilities encompassed intelligence-collection assets at a company best known for such remotely piloted aircraft as the Predator and Reaper, and for high-end ground control and electro-optics capabilities. But in 2012, word from Washington set Ritter and a small circle of friends onto an entrepreneurial course. “The Obama administration announced that there would be rules for drones in commercial airspace,” he recalled. “We were kicking around some ideas—if they’re going to create rules, [it was] time to get started.” Today, SlantRange, where Ritter is CEO, uses spectral imaging sensors to deliver precise data that’s customizable for crops and conditions and can correct readings in various lighting situations without Internet or the cloud. It’s brand promise: “Immediate analytics, anywhere.” When they began, Ritter and co-founder/General Atomics colleague Michael Milton “saw enormous opportunity” in bringing high-end optical knowledge a...