Skyborne Technology, Inc., a designer and developer of manned and unmanned aviation and sea systems will open its first U.S. manufacturing facility today at the county Industrial Park in Dalkeith.
The welcoming, including a demonstration of the company’s technology, is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. ET.
The facility is located 115 CR 381.
The opening caps several months of negotiations as the county sought first to secure full ownership of the Industrial Park, as was its due to under an agreement with U.S. EDA, before finally finding a viable and stable company to enter into a lease agreement.
And the payoff is estimated to be roughly 100 jobs created over the long-term in a growing sector of the world’s economy.
“Gulf County has been working with all the parties on this project for a matter of months,” said Assistant County Administrator Warren Yeager.
“We are very excited to land a project of this magnitude that will diversify our local economy and fits the type of industry we are trying to attract.”
Skyborne Technology, with existing facilities in Central America and South America, is at the cutting edge of aviation systems, designing and developing manned, i.e. tethered, and unmanned technology with underwater applications.
Through a series of mergers, said CEO Mike Lawson, the company was able to assemble varying technologies, with the potential for integration, under one roof and process.
In considering their products, Lawson said, conjure to the 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.
A significant application is agricultural assessment: instead of relying on satellite images to detect insect or some other type of blight, the Skyborne technology can sharpen it down to near ground level.
The technology is also used in assessing power grids and a host of monitoring applications.
Lawson said the company is also working on applications to create a drone which would identify and eliminate “bad drones” which other companies and countries are developing.
“We have a number of great partners,” Lawson said.
As a smaller, but growing company, relatively new to the sector, Skyborne is both more flexible and cost-efficient than larger companies in the business, 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).
“It’s a combination of doing business in a different way and doing it in an affordable way.”
The company, Lawson added, “really wanted to be in Florida.”
Gov. Rick Scott’s promotion of the aerospace and technology sectors was a strong factor and Gulf County provided an additional ‘strategic reason” for locating a facility: plenty of water.
A technology the company is developing is used for underwater applications.
Additionally, much of the technology and systems Skyborne is developing are also part of the military’s mission and a segment of that work is taking place down the road at Tyndall AFB.
“There are a lot of things moving in this direction,” Lawson said.
Two other compelling strong factors pointed Skyborne to Gulf County, Lawson said.
Area high school and college curriculums were beginning to integrate the technologies and skills the company would require from a workforce.
Lawson added the company was likely to be heavily involved in a district public school proposal to create a drone program.
Skyborne’s growth will bring other educational and job-training programs opportunities.
Additionally, the area is in need of jobs, the company’s presence will have an impact, and, hopefully, the multi-national company and community will grow for “years to come.”
“This is where it’s at,” Lawson said. “We feel being in this area, a potential growth area, is (a positive).
“If we can help improve the local environment, provide jobs for students in high school and college … we want to soak that up.”
The Gulf County facility will be, Lawson said, an “integration” facility, where such components as flight decks, generator decks and composites will be manufactured.