Silent Falcon UAS Technologies, an unmanned aircraft systems service provider and original equipment manufacturer, will invest $6 million to locate its new East Coast headquarters for research, development and manufacturing at the Front Royal-Warren County Airport.
The venture, which was announced by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office in conjunction with the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority on Tuesday, will create 249 new jobs, some of which likely will be remote. Virginia won the project over Massachusetts and New Jersey, according to a news release.
"Silent Falcon UAS Technologies' decision to establish its East Coast operations in Warren County and create a new workforce development partnership speaks volumes to Virginia's leadership in the fast-growing unmanned systems industry," Northam states in a news release. "With one of the nation's largest transportation networks, an unmatched talent pipeline, and competitive operating costs, the Commonwealth is an ideal location for the company to reach its expanding customer base. This project is a major win for the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and we are thrilled to welcome the company to Virginia."
At its Warren County location, Silent Falcon will design, fabricate and build drones using advanced carbon fiber materials, according to the EDA. The company typically builds one to three aircraft per month.
Warren County also will house the maintenance repair and flight training facility.
According to information from the EDA, Silent Falcon has a fleet of 10-plus drones that are deployed to remote locations to fly and capture data with their pilots and also hires pilots with full aviation ratings for manned aircraft as well as providing firefighting and security services in which a live feed from the tracking sensors is provided to law/fire officials.
The company’s software team, using data collected from the drones and their proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) software, creates data visualization pages and reports for customers.
The unmanned system's lab at Front Royal’s Randolph-Macon Academy will partner with Silent Falcon as part of its pre-professional pathway initiative through the R-MA drone program, which provides students with the tools and real-life experience to leverage the potential of unmanned technology in a range of career fields, providing “first-hand experience” and how to apply it to “real-world community management, business, environmental and economic challenges,” the release states.
"Randolph-Macon Academy's goal was to create a nationally recognized and accredited UAS flight training and drone applications program serving as a direct pipeline to industry career opportunities, as well as a pathway to emerging four-year university UAS programs," Brian Kelly, director of unmanned flight operations at the Randolph-Macon Academy, states in the release.
Kelly notes that R-MA is now “positioned to become the leading high school UAS program in the country” and said he believes Silent Falcon’s investment will do “great things” for the country and the region.
Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball states in the release that Virginia is positioned to provide the company with a “strong foundation for success” with its education system and research and development assets.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Warren County, the Virginia Department of Aviation and the Center for Innovative Technology to secure the project for Virginia, and Northam approved a $161,482 grant from the Commonwealth's Opportunity Fund to assist Warren County with the project.
Grant Bishop, CEO of Silent Falcon UAS Technologies, commended the VEDP and states in the release: “They couldn't have been more persuasive in helping us choose Warren County for our new facility.”
“We'd like to thank Governor Northam and the officials in Warren County for their leadership and support for making this possible. The small, business-friendly atmosphere and the availability of a great workforce were real selling points,” he added.
The company is eligible to receive benefits from the Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created. Funding and services to support Silent Falcon UAS Technologies' employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
"We want to thank Silent Falcon UAS Technologies for its investment in Warren County. We look forward to a thriving partnership with this growing company at the forefront of this exciting new technology," Jeff Browne, chair of the EDA Board of Directors states in the release. "This project was the result of successful collaboration with Warren County, the Airport Commission, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, among others. We're excited to help bring this high-tech industry to our community.”
Statewide transportation and technology leaders as well as various local and state officials commended all sides for their contributions and said they look forward to what the endeavor brings.