Drone company in Longmont airport hangar up and running, hiring
Skip Miller is excited. He's excited about drones, he's excited about Longmont, and most of all, he's excited about making drones in Longmont.
The competitive model airplane flyer who has been involved in two other local businesses has finished moving both his model airplane retail shop and drone assembly workspace into a Vance Brand Municipal Airport hangar.
Miller is a Boulder resident and had a hand in starting what is now the Boulder Beer Company as well as former storage device company Wood Logic. Miller said he plans on being a good neighbor in Longmont, drawing from a technology-driven culture to employee roughly four more full-time employees. They can currently produce about five drones a month but hope to ramp up to 10 in the near future.
While the city council approved leasing the hangar to Miller's company, UASUSA, last week, the company had already been moving in and sprucing up the place for two weeks before that. Essentially, if the vote had not passed they could have been evicted, Miller said.
"When we first got here, all there was was some broken airplanes," Miller said about the space.
Now, UASUSA is moved in and has already met with a client in their new location. Like most of their high-end clients, the person Miller met with wanted a customized drone for a specialized purpose, in that case surveying magnetic fields for use in the mining industry.
And that is essentially what Miller's company will be doing in the airport hangar, not flying or testing the drones, but consulting with clients and assembling the UASs (unmanned aircraft systems) as small aircraft take off and land outside the walls. They have worked with everyone from farmers to security companies to University of Colorado students on outfitting their drones with whatever payload the client needs airborne— whether it's a surveillance camera or a sophisticated data collection system.
"That's the kind of thing we're focused on now, is what kind of data does the firefighter need and what kind of data does the farmer need," Miller said. "We're kind of the iPad of drone technology and you show up, and it's 'What's your app and what do you want your drone to do?'"
That said, Miller notes that he sees his drones as civil servants in a different sphere than the predator drones in use and featured in news reports from the Middle East. That market is saturated and his drones aren't weaponized. As to whether the future of drones is a threat to privacy, Miller likened his machines to other tools that could be used for nefarious purposes, but noted that they aren't being sold that way.
"I can go get an extension ladder at Home Depot and look at somebody's window," Miller said. "Or you could rent a van and use it for something inappropriate. But that's not normally how people are going to use them."
Additionally, UASUSA would discriminate against someone that wanted a custom drone built for something that didn't seem quite right, Miller said.
"We are self-screening and following all sorts of governmental regulations," Miller said.
Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, email@example.com or twitter.com/ktonacci