Home Back Issues January 2010 Unmanned plane business soars

Unmanned plane business soars

| Print |  Email
Articles - January 2010
Thursday, December 17, 2009
IMG_2531
An Insitu employee takes one of the company’s unmanned airplanes for a test flight in the Columbia River Gorge.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF INSITU

You may not have heard the unmanned vehicles coming, but they’re here. The market for humanless planes, boats and ground vehicles has exploded, creating a whole new tech sector for the Pacific Northwest.

The business at the core of the cluster is Insitu, which has logged 245,000 flight hours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over five years Insitu has grown from a promising 30-employee startup in tiny Bingen, Wash., to a thriving 720-employee Boeing subsidiary spilling across the state line into Oregon and seeding a whole new crop of spinoffs and suppliers.

Insitu is moving about 150 employees across the river into Hood River and considering building a large campus somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge. Its remotely operated, nearly undetectable airplanes have performed well overseas and could one day assist with wildlife monitoring, oil exploration and forest fire prevention.

Insitu has joined key regional players in the industry in the newly formed Cascade Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The group met at the Allison Inn in Newberg in November and heard a presentation about the latest in robotic vehicle research from Oregon State University professor Belinda Batten, an expert in dynamics and control.

The market for these businesses is huge and growing rapidly. The Obama Administration is requesting $3.5 billion for unmanned planes in fiscal 2010, a good chunk of which is expected to go to Insitu and its local suppliers. Also well positioned to cash in are:

Option-2-Horizontal
Insitu’s Scan Eagle launches and lands without a runway, captures surveillance images day and night and is almost undetectable from the ground.

• Evergreen International Aviation, the McMinnville defense contractor that is billing itself online as “the first and only unmanned aerial service provider.”

• Wilsonville-based FLIR Systems, which builds cameras for high-altitude surveillance and a laser targeting system that’s promoted in an online video featuring a series of impressive remote explosions.

• Clackamas-based Oregon Iron Works, which has developed an unmanned seaplane called the Sea Scout.

• Cloud Cap Technologies of Hood River, which sells autopilot systems and small cameras to Insitu and other manufacturers.

• Northwest UAV Propulsion Systems, which imports parts from Germany and builds super-light and efficient engines in McMinnville.

FLIR, Cloud Cap and Insitu have registered for a Jan. 31 conference in Singapore sure to be an over-the-top geek fest for robotics nuts and a great place to land contracts. Business Oregon, the state’s economic development arm, is also encouraging smaller players in the industry to attend by offering a grant to cover expenses.

“Everybody’s rushing to show off what they’ve got,” says Mark Zanzmill, who manages business development for Cloud Cap. “It’s like what I imagine the auto industry was like when cars first came out.” 

BEN JACKLET
 

More Articles

Podcast: Turn Things Around with David Marquet

Contributed Blogs
Friday, October 17, 2014
davidmarquet thumbBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

How can you move from a command-and-control leadership model to one of true empowerment and accountability? David Marquet did, and he took notes along the way.


Read more...

100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon [VIDEO]

News
Thursday, October 02, 2014

Screen shot 2014-10-02 at 11.17.21 AMMore than 5,500 employees from 180 organizations throughout the state participated in the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon project.


Read more...

Podcast: Testing for Emotional Intelligence with John Hersey

Contributed Blogs
Friday, September 19, 2014
ivbU3sIXBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

How can you tell if you, a peer, a subordinate or a job candidate has the emotional intelligence needed to do well?


Read more...

Startup or Grow Up?

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JON BELL

Startup culture is all the rage. Is there a downside?


Read more...

Video: The 100 Best Survey

News
Thursday, August 28, 2014

100-best-logo-2015 500pxw-1OB Research Editor Kim Moore shares some pointers about the 100 Best Companies to Work For survey.


Read more...

100 Best Nonprofits announced

News
Thursday, October 02, 2014

100NP14logo4WebOregon Business magazine has named the sixth annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon.


Read more...

The Rail Baron

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Oil is gushing out of the U.S. and Canada, and much of it is coming from places that don’t have pipeline infrastructure. So it’s being shipped by rail.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS