MD UAS maker uses custom approach for military, civilian success

By Luke Geiver | January 14, 2016

UAV Solutions formed prior to the commercial emergence and current excitement of the unmanned aircraft systems industry seen today. Based in Maryland since 2006, the company of 45 has learned how to apply positive lessons learned from its early days working with military and U.S. Department of Defense clients into commercial success in the 2016 civilian—public and private—market. But, while many UAS entities are working to translate experience gained from working with DOD or military clients into commercial success, UAVS is hoping to also do just the opposite.

Although the company has learned how to apply lessons learned from its military-focused days towards commercial clients, the company is now working to gain more military or defense contracts by using what they learned from the commercial side and applying it to the military side, said William Davidson, CEO and chief engineer. “The military has very good systems that they have been using for the last decade,” he said, “but they come at a cost.”

UAVS is working to provide the same quality platforms, sensors and ground-based systems the military is accustomed too, but at a lower price point. To continue winning military or government contracts, while it also expands into the U.S. commercial market, the company believes it can rely on its custom approach to UAS development.

Housed within its 60,000 square foot facility, UAVS has a machine shop, an electronics and wiring room and a full composite creation room that allows the company to manufacturer many of its parts in-house. “We are essentially a one-stop shop,” Davidson said. “We can go all the way from design and prototyping to manufacturing and production.” The company also has a 350-acre site where it can test and fly its platforms.

UAVS investment in engineering and manufacturing capability is helping the firm meet what Davidson believes is an underserved segment of the civilian commercial market. “There are a lot of personal drones that are right on the edge of commercialization and that area is very saturated. There is a space for companies like ours to tailor a system to more specific requirements,” he said. The company can, and has, built platforms ranging from one pound to 800 pounds.

This year, Davidson hopes to work more with larger companies that are looking to add UAV fleets to their operations. Because the UAVS team can design, test, build and produce an entire system based on specific needs, he believes the team will have the ability to continue providing specific and tailored solutions to clients as it did in its early days with its military clients.

“Originally, we were completely defense focused,” he said, explaining that the company would build a system based around a set of criteria provided from single customers.

Because the team had to create platforms and systems that could carry heavier payloads or fly for longer durations, the company believes it can better serve some of the commercial end-users that need more than what a personal drone can provide.

In the past year, the company has received three U.S. Federal Aviation Administration exemptions for three different UAVs. Many of the clients its provided platforms too in the commercial space have been focused on university research, agriculture efforts or infrastructure monitoring.

But, that hasn’t stopped the company from serving its military customers with the same platforms it provides to universities. UAVS recently finalized a supply agreement to the Department of the Army for Romania. Through the agreement, the Romanian government will receive four Phoenix 30 Quad Rotor UAS. The vertical-take-off-and-landing systems can fly for 35 minutes and include a combined electro-optical/infrared stabilized camera sensor, ground control system, applicable spares and ground support equipment all designed, tested and supplied by the company. The government of Bulgaria has also used the system.


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