By Tim Croft | The Port St. Joe Star | 850-227-7827 @PSJ_Star | firstname.lastname@example.orgPosted Mar 15, 2019 at 6:30 PM
PORT ST. JOE — The developer, designer and manufacturer of manned and unmanned aviation systems that established its first United States facility last fall in Gulf County has purchased Costin Airport in Port St. Joe for an undisclosed sum.
The airport will be used by Skyborne for flight operations, manufacturing and training pilots in unmanned systems, according to a news release.
And, along the way, Skyborne Technology found a partner in Unmanned Systems Inc., a manufacturer of unmanned systems and drones which will be moving a portion of its manufacturing and training to Gulf County.
“Skyborne Technology and Unmanned Systems will help build employment in Gulf County to further develop the educational needs in high tech manned and unmanned systems,” said Don Bintz, president of Unmanned Systems.
The airport purchase is just another step in the expansion of Skyborne, which after Hurricane Michael has become something of the “good news people for our county,” said Jim McKnight, executive director of the county Economic Development Coalition.
McKnight said that earlier in the week he had visited the Skyborne facility at the Dalkeith Industrial Park, which the company opened last September, and noted three Gulf County employees already at work building drones.
“Skyborne Technology staying the course of developing facilities and operations in both ends of the county has been a beacon of hope during our community’s response to and recovery from Hurricane Michael,” McKnight said.
There is also a strong link between Skyborne’s efforts, along with the partnership with Unmanned Systems, and educational programs in the county’s public schools and Gulf Coast State College.
Gulf District Schools has received Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. funding to establish a high school program path toward certification in operation of unmanned systems, or drones.
Officials with Skyborne have indicated their interest in being part of getting that program off the ground, seeing it as a source for training opportunities and adding to its workforce.
Gulf Coast State College, with a new technology building arising in recent years, also has focused considerable attention on training students for advanced aviation systems.
The college has become a formal educational partner of Skyborne.
“The co-location in our community of these two manufacturing leaders in the unmanned aerial vehicle arena provides an unprecedented opportunity for the citizens of Gulf County,” said John Holdnak, president of Gulf Coast State College.
“In conjunction with the related training opportunities under development in the local high schools, and underway at Gulf Coast, these companies are poised to fully develop and deploy these transformational technologies, becoming a magnet for high tech opportunity in the region.”
Skyborne initially chose Gulf County as the site for its first U.S. facility for a variety of reasons.
The use of the aviation technology dovetails with the military missions in the region and political support, state and local, as well local assets, particularly plenty of water, were in place to facilitate the move for a company that has facilities in Central America and South America.
The expansion to Costin Airport has from the outset seemed a natural fit.
“We are looking forward to the upcoming airship and drone test flights at Costin Airport, as this is strategic for our customer base in Central America and the Caribbean as a one-stop shop for inspection of the technologies,” said Dr. Carlos Arzu, president of Skyborne Central America.
Skyborne is at the cutting edge of aviation systems, designing and developing manned (tethered) and unmanned technology with underwater applications.
Through a series of mergers the company was able to marry varying technologies, with the potential for integration, under one roof and process, Lawson said.
“The uniqueness of our design is that we’ve combined multiple designs,” Lawson said. “The technology is proven. It just needed to be organized into a company that can use that technology (at its potential).”
In considering the products, Lawson said, conjure to mind a mother ship in the air on a tether or extremely long line.
That mother ship, in turn, contains any number of drones which can be deployed, in the air and underwater, for a variety of applications.
One major application is agricultural assessment, and the technology also is used in assessing power grids and a host of monitoring applications.
Lawson said the company also is working on applications to create a drone which would identify and eliminate “bad drones” other companies and countries are developing.