Ohio is widely known as the “birthplace of American aviation.” That’s because the Wright brothers – Wilbur and Orville — grew up in the Buckeye State and first designed and tested their aircraft there. It’s hard to imagine a more poignant place for a pioneering UAV company to establish its corporate headquarters – and to begin mass producing its state-of-the-art drone products. StrixDrones, owned and operated by Israeli native Niv Aharoni, who just arrived in the US a year ago, is doing just that.
The company’s ground-breaking drone docking station – known as Drone Dock – is about to take the drone industry by storm. Described as a “mini airport,” it’s fully autonomous, which means it can receive, recharge and relaunch a drone without human intervention. Once docked and stored under an enclosed roof for protection from the elements, the drone can upload data and be programmed remotely in preparation for its next mission.
Aharoni envisions multiple docking stations placed 10-15 miles apart that can allow drone fleets to land and relaunch, and then travel with only minor interruptions over long distances to serve multiple clients in a range of commercial niches, from aerial surveillance to cargo delivery.
In fact, Aharoni has a separate brand name for his company’s delivery operations: Drone Drop. He envisions drones dropping their cargo at ports located next to the docking stations. Customers would be notified that their package had arrived, and would make the cargo pick up themselves.
Drones – in two different sizes, depending on the mission’s payload needs – would only travel between the pre-designated docking stations. The many logistical and safety challenges typically associated with retail deliveries might thereby be avoided, Aharoni hopes.
Businesses are already beginning to purchase his docking stations, which the company’s building at its production plant on the outskirts of Dayton. Right now, it takes about three months to turn around these orders, Aharoni says. He hopes to cut that time to just a few weeks. He’s also hoping to interest the U.S. military in Drone Dock.
Aharaoni says he’s aware of Ohio’s proud aviation history, which was part of the appeal of locating there. In addition to the Wright Brothers, more US astronauts – 23 total, including John Glenn and the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong – hail from Ohio than from any other U.S. state. Getting set up in the Buckeye State, in the heart of the American Midwest, especially coming from abroad, felt like a good way to make himself and his small company more welcome, he says.
But there were also good practical reasons for establishing himself in Ohio, especially Dayton. The area’s pre-existing pool of skilled engineers and subcontractors with aviation experience has made recruitment of his design and production staff – currently numbering 10, but more still to come – especially easy.
“For me, business is made by people,” Aharoni says. “We found very good people for our team in Ohio, and a spacious facility in a convenient location with a great environment. It was the right decision to base our product production and US operation in Dayton.”
StryxDrone is not alone in the burgeoning drone docking market. China-based DJI and other non-U.S. companies are also producing stations. But Drone Dock and Drone Drop have the advantage of being NDAA-compliant, as well as fully autonomous, with its docking stations allowing for service in multiple niches, without the need for extensive new regulatory compliance.
The first 6 Drone Dock units rolled off the company’s assembly line in June. For now, the company is looking to support aerial health care delivery operations across the state. A number of leading companies, including Zip Line, are seeking to establish medical supply delivery networks linking hospitals and clinics in Cleveland and parts of northeastern Ohio.
Drone Dock could be the perfect partner for these efforts, allowing for scalability on a hitherto unknown scale and giving patients, especially in remote areas, the fastest, most reliable health care they’ve ever known.