Altus: The company preparing to conquer the global market with Greek drones


The cutting-edge technology company from Chania received a LUC certificate from the APA and opened (bigger) wings in Europe.

They say that for the children of very successful people, the most important milestone is to achieve more than their parents. For the children of Dimitris and Elina Sarris—founders of EADS 3 Sigma, which has been making drones for NATO since the mid-90s—this milestone has long been passed with Altus, the company they founded in the midst of the economic crisis.

If Dimitris Sarris's success was such that, as his Israeli clients said, he managed to "sell ice to Eskimos," for Zacharias and Maria Sarris, the trust from the leaders in a field that has huge competition from every corner of the earth is something bigger.

Vassilis Katsou's VNK Capital entered the company's equity capital to launch it on a global level. Its clientele already includes NATO, Frontex, the Greek Armed Forces, the Qatar Air Force, Israel's special forces, the European Commission, ELAS, and EMSA. Amazon and the Greek government also chose to make Naxos a "Smart Island."

The certificate

Altus became the first Greek company with a license to operate light UAVs (Unmanned Aircraft Systems). This achievement is an important milestone not only for ALTUS LSA but also for the unmanned aviation industry in Greece, as it paves the way for it to expand by using this license throughout Europe without the need for time-consuming certification procedures.

What will the LUC certificate bring to Altus? Essentially, it gives it the privilege to authorise its own flight operations up to Safety and Integrity Level (SAIL) II in recognition of its ability to manage and mitigate risks effectively, ensuring the highest levels of safety and reliability in all SMI operations.

The certification process was carried out under the extensive guidance, supervision, and high technical standards of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and EASA. APA's in-depth knowledge and proactive approach have been instrumental in ensuring that its operations meet the requirements of regulations (EU) 2019/947 and (EU) 2019/945.

The company's managing director explained that "with the LUC certification, we will be able to better serve our customers throughout Europe, providing direct and reliable SMIEA services and ensuring high safety standards in accordance with the EASA regulation.

"Therefore, we would like to thank the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority for their support and guidance during this rigorous certification process."

It makes history

The success story of Altus actually began to be written in 1994  when the doctor from Chania with studies in aerospace medicine and aeronautical marketing, Dimitris Sarris, thought of undertaking the research, development and production of every piece of the unmanned aircraft that simulated aerial threats in the NATO firing range.

In Crete, all the work was done in-house from scratch.

Of course, the excellent work being done by the family company EADS 3 SIGMA appealed to NATO, which bought the drones to test air defence systems. In 2004, Airbus took a stake in the Cretan company and, in 2009, acquired 100% of EADS.

Two years later, Zacharias Sarris, who had fulfilled his father's dream of studying aeronautics (at Queen Mary), decided to capitalise on the family experience.

He did so by creating a new company to develop and manufacture drones, foreseeing, as he has explained to New Money, "that Unmanned Aircraft had begun to proliferate with military applications, but there was no legislative framework for their development beyond the Armed Forces. And besides, the technology couldn't cover flight safety."

Very quickly, a year after its establishment and after it had developed its first drones, Altus got its first job in a Frontex program. Immigration was on the rise in 2012, and Greek police, seeing the benefits of using drones by Frontex, gave Altus a project that year in Evros.

Very quickly, in 2013, the Greek company won a NATO tender in KFOR (Kosovo Forces) and, later, was selected for the surveillance of the green line in Ukraine, the Minsk treaty1 (surveillance of a high-risk border area of ​​160 km). What followed was stormy...

Having already five years of experience developing USV systems, Altus looked at the rules for MIS flights in the aviation standards for certified operators and opened a school, obtaining the relevant licenses of the then CAA and EASA and, to date, has trained more than 700 accredited operators.

The Greek company has also received a contract from the European service EMSA —together with another Greek company—to measure with drones whether the pollutants emitted by ships now in European waters are compatible with the regulations established for the content of sulfur.

In 2022, it achieved another major contract when Amazon chose it for the Naxos project to provide the Atlas-4 UAV (Unmanned Aircraft System) to transport biological and medical materials to and from the Naxos hospital and neighbouring islands.

In October 2023, Vassilis Katsos joined Altus, embracing its aggressive development plan, "in which we are now called upon to support and assist so that the company can now gain international reach and presence".

Mr. Katsos explained that in addition to expanding the executive team and launching the internationalisation effort, a portion of the funds that VNK will contribute will also go toward expanding the drone development and assembly factory in Chania.

"There will be new production lines and new equipment that will expand the company's production capabilities," he noted.

The president of APA, Dr. Christos Tsitouras, hands over the LUC certificate to Altus CEO Zacharia Sarri
The president of APA, Dr. Christos Tsitouras, hands over the LUC certificate to Altus CEO Zacharia Sarri

Design and production take place in Crete, while the administrative team and part of the software development team are located in Athens. Altus is preparing for new takeoffs, to new heights.

READ MORE: Greek-founded iCOMAT Secures $22.5M Series A Funding to Revolutionize Advanced Composite Manufacturing.

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