Targeting New UAS Clients
From its 350-acre Maryland test flight plot, UAV Solutions can fly an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for nearly any type of client. Formed in 2006, the company established itself as a proven developer and manufacturer for military, defense and government-related clientele. But, as the global emergence of the public commercial UAS industry continues, UAVS is now a prime example of a UAS entity that is expanding and working to reach the civilian commercial end-user.
UAVS has a 60,000-square-foot facility for its 45-member team. The facility includes a machine shop, electronics and wiring room and full composite creation room allowing the team to create many parts in-house. “We are essentially a one-stop shop,” says William Davidson, CEO and chief engineer. “We can go all the way from design and prototyping to manufacturing and production.”
Davidson believes the ability to take a UAV idea from concept to flight could be a major element of its civilian commercial success. “There are a lot of personal drones that are right on the edge of commercialization and that area is very saturated,” he says. “There is a space for companies like ours to tailor a system to more specific requirements.” To date, UAVS has built a range of UAV platforms, from one pound to 800 pounds.
The route to economic success begins with commercial end-users in need of more than what a personal drone can provide, Davidson says. Utilizing its experience designing and tailoring UAS to individual client needs will help the Maryland firm achieve its civilian client needs, he also says. The only real hurdle, Davidson explains, is helping its potential commercial clients know about its vast capabilities.
Dan Erdberg, president of Drone Aviation Corp., a Florida-based, tethered-drone developer that spun-out from an aerospace technology, engineering and manufacturing firm that serves the military and information gathering sectors, is also working to educate his potential clients.
The company has created a tethered platform system that includes a unique deployment set-up and tethered cord covered in Kevlar. The system can fly to heights of 400 feet (roughly a 40-story building). Deployed from a hard-sided case, the tether can send power and communication to the in-air drone and receive critical information back through the same tether. “Our unit can stay in the air for hours and hours,” Erdberg says. “We can also fly a lot heavier airframes.”
Despite its unique offerings, Erdberg says his potential civilian commercial clients are still not in tune with the advantages of a tethered platform for certain situations. To help showcase DAC’s tethered platform capabilities, Erdberg has formed a partnership with Skyfire, a UAV consulting firm that serves emergency responders. “We thought they would be a great partner to get our product into the hands of first responders,” he says. Erdberg has also held discussions with first responder groups in Florida and Georgia.
Davidson’s team is constantly reaching out to U.S.-based commercial end-users. In some cases, showing what they have to offer clients at the 350-acre site in Maryland. Over the past year, most UAVS clients have been focused on university research, agriculture efforts or infrastructure monitoring.
Like DAC, Davidson’s team isn’t forgetting about its origin in the UAS industry. The company is also applying lessons learned from its civilian commercial customers to its military and defense focus. “The military has very good systems that they have been using for the last decade but they come at a cost,” he says.
Many of its civilian UAVs are now equipped to meet the same needs of its military clients, but they cost less than the military is accustomed to. UAVS has finalized a supply agreement this year with the Department of the Army for Romania. The agreement will give Romania four Phoenix 30 Quad Rotor UAS, including electro-optical infrared stabilized cameras and sensors, a ground control system and applicable spares along with ground support equipment. The government of Bulgaria has also used UAVS’ systems. “Originally, we were completely defense focused,” Davidson says.