On January 12, 2021, the United States Congressional Research Service released their findings on COVID-19’s impact on unemployment. The opening line of the research states, “The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant effect on unemployment in every state, industry, and major demographic group in the United States.” The paper goes on to list the specifics of unemployment rates based on individual states. By April 2020, the nation was experiencing a 14.8% unemployment rate, the highest since such data had begun to be collected in 1948. On February 23, 2021, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont held a press conference in Hartford, CT praising the state’s efforts to turn unemployment numbers around.
At the heart of Connecticut’s journey to increase employment rates, according to Governor Lamont, was the establishment of the first ever drone assembly plant in the United States. In 2016, Barry Alexander opened Aquiline Drones inside of Hartford’s historical Stark Building on 750 Main St. with a handful of aviation, system engineers, and IT experts. Barry began his career in aviation traveling the world as a Boeing pilot. As a pilot, he became painfully aware of how the scattered islands of the Caribbean were cut off from medical access and created an ambulance air service. Throughout all of this, Barry was constantly keeping himself abreast with growing trends in aviation, specifically drones. Just like how he saw a gap in how Caribbean people received medical care, Barry noticed a gap in how the United States was approaching drone technology compared to the rest of the world.
“Drones are aircraft and should be operated with strict adherence to the regulations that are in place to help keep us safe,” Barry said. “I got involved in the drone industry primarily to make a difference based on my diverse aviation background and experience and how I thought it could be useful in pioneering a new direction for the industry.” Creating a safe platform to educate and set up entrepreneurs in the drone industry, complete with software and now hardware, Aquiline Drones became the fourth drone company in the country to be granted permission to operate under the FAA’s Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate. Part 135 is the coveted certification that allows drones to become parcel delivery vehicles.
One of the programs that Barry runs from his office in Hartford, is called Flight to the Future, a program that trains future drone operators to the highest degree of excellence. By joining the course, participants will learn the skills needed to not only become a licensed drone operator but how to use that license to create an income. Flight to the Future will also give participants the leadership support needed to create their own drone enterprises. The key behind all of the training in this program is recognizing drones as aircraft, respecting all aviation laws. With Flight to the Future, Aquiline hopes to foster millions of new jobs that will support the nation’s economy.
In a move that will continue creating jobs for American’s, Aquiline Drones recently signed a deal with French drone manufacturer Drone Volt. As part of the five year deal, Aquiline Drone has opened a factory in Hartford to be exclusive manufacturers of Drone Volt’s Altura Zenith and Hercules 2 drones. Aquiline will also be the world’s sole manufacturers of Drone Volt’s dual spectrum, computer vision aerial camera Pensar. “Growing data security concerns over foreign-manufactured technology, mainly from China, has created an immediate need for increased drone production capacity in the United States,” Barry said. “Our goal is to not only position our country as a leader in the multi-billion-dollar global drone industry, but also, to reestablish America’s manufacturing dominance.”
Aquiline Drones occupies 15,000 sq ft throughout Stark Building’s 17 floors, 7,000 sq ft of which have been converted into a state of the art drone assembly lab. In the lab, Aquiline currently employees 25 technicians, a number Barry sees doubling shortly. On the street level, Aquiline is in the process of renovating retail space for a drone showroom and a drone maintenance and repair studio. All of this information was shared by Governor Lamont and Barry at the press conference on the 23rd. As part of his opening remarks, Governor Lamont turned to Barry and said, “If I was making anything today Barry, it would be drones”. He went on to say, “We’ve [CT] done helicopters and planes and now we’re doing drones. The takeaway today is the state offers incentives as companies grow and hire. We make sure financing is available for companies that want to grow.” In the wake of the United State’s COVID-19 induce employment crisis, the development of American based drone enterprises could be the answer to rebuilding economic stability.