GULF COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — In Wewahitchka on Monday, technology took flight.
Skyborne Technology, in partnership with Gulf Coast State College and Gulf County are testing an inflatable airship; it’s one of the first of its kind in the entire world.
“This is sort of a one of a kind type design,” said Skyborne’s CEO, Michael Lawson. “It’s kind of unusual, it’s almost a UFO looking airship.”
It’s seven stories tall and it’ll fly tethered or untethered thousands of feet above the ground, as a piece of technology being utilized like never before.
“In case there is a disaster, we would come in after the disaster and be a communication hub,” Lawson explained.
It will act as a satellite in the sky, hovering thousands of feet above the ground with emergency equipment, drone launching and receiving capabilities, cameras and data collection tools. Gulf Coast State College partnered with Skyborne to make it happen with support from Triumph Gulf Coast and Gulf County.
“There’s a lot of people that are really interested in it now,” said GCSC President, Dr. John Holdnak.
He said the idea came from one of the many lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
“When decision makers don’t have enough data to make decisions, you’ll make a decision that can turn out to waste time, waste energy, waste resources,” Holdnak said.
GCSC is working on a comprehensive emergency response program to assist in future disasters, training students to be ready to operate the state of the art equipment, such as the inflatable airship.
“Our goal is to start creating capabilities along coastal communities in Florida to begin with and then around the rest of the country,” Holdnak said. “Where the equipment is there and the trained people will come into the area and we’re going to provide a lot of that training to all the people who are interested in receiving it.”
Lawson said they’re planning on building several more of these blimp-type satellites, able to be manned or unmanned and used around the world to help with communication networks.
This airship is still undergoing FAA testing, but Lawson hopes to have it ready, up and running in the next few months.