Drone facility expected to bring jobs to Maryland

- Liz Holland | Salisbury Independent

drones, drone, uas, uav, suas, commercial drone, maryland, salisbury
Airport Manager Dawn Veatch and Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Chambers (FacilitiesNet)

Salisbury [Maryland] is on track to becoming a regional center for testing and certification of unmanned aircraft systems – commonly known as drones – that will create jobs and could pump nearly a half-billion dollars a year into the local economy in the not-too-distant future.

“This is a momentous day for Salisbury and Wicomico County,” Bill Chambers, President and CEO of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, said Monday during a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new drone facility at the Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport. “It’s a game-changer.”

The 8,000-square-foot hangar for the SBY UAS Center for Innovation has been under construction since November and is scheduled to open this summer, said Airport Manager Dawn Veatch. It will have a door wide enough to accommodate aircraft with 80-foot wingspans.

The county received a $100,000 Maryland Department of Commerce grant to help pay for the facility.

Once it begins operating, it is expected to generate $11 million per year in revenue to the county and $1 million per year in state and local taxes, Chambers said. Once drone manufacturing begins, it will generate $495 million in revenue, $72 million in taxes and add 250 jobs.

The center will focus on Federal Aviation Administration certification of aircraft, the airmen and air traffic component.

Two companies, Sentinel Robotic Solutions and Kilroy Aviation, are already at the airport in temporary office space until the new facility opens, Veatch said.

Companies are developing several types of commercial drones including ones that can perform construction and pipeline monitoring, power line surveys, search and rescue, monitor crop health and survey land.

Other drones are being developed to carry cargo, perform real time mapping and carry passengers in unmanned taxis.

Veatch said Salisbury has an advantage over other airports in the region because its uncongested airspace offers more freedom for testing the unmanned aircraft. Its location also offers the opportunity to build corridors to NASA Wallops, Patuxent Naval Air Station and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The new drone hangar with a taxiway will anchor a planned industrial park at the airport. A new master plan for the airport includes two 30,000-square-foot buildings.

It will among several planned improvements at the airport, including a runway extension to better accommodate jets.

Veatch also wants to build a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster distribution center at the airport that could store medical supplies, diapers, water, nonperishable foods and other essential items.

Hired in 2017 after a career with the FAA, Veatch has been tasked by County Executive Bob Culver to help grow the facility.

“It’s an economic engine that’s been asleep for a long time,” she said.

Original article at the Salisbury Independent, here.

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