Alumni’s company is taking drones to new heights.
Jeff Taylor ’09 started his drone company 10 years ago making and selling miniature airplanes that farmers and real estate agents used to map crops or snap pictures of properties. They cost $600 and could stay aloft for about an hour.
Today, drones produced by Taylor’s company, Event 38 Unmanned Systems, have wing spans of 10 feet or more, advanced camera capabilities and sell for close to $20,000. Thanks to fuel cell technology, they may soon stay airborne all day.
The Case engineer is carving out a niche at the sophisticated end of the drone market — and drawing attention.
In June, Crain’s Cleveland Business profiled Taylor and his company, noting he has succeeded in attracting federal, state and university support to advance drone technology.
The company announced a successful demo flight in June of a drone powered by a hydrogen fuel cell at the Kent State University airport. It was developed in partnership with Yanhai Du, a KSU professor and fuel cell specialist.
“Fuel cells are a promising power source for drones,” observed sUAS News, a newsletter covering the drone industry. “Using a fuel cell can extend a drone’s flight time by a significant margin, which is a great advantage.”
Taylor, an aerospace engineer, started Event 38 in 2012 in San Diego. He soon came home to build his drones in Akron. Event 38 has since sold more than 600 drones and enjoys annual revenue in the millions of dollars, Crain’s reported. With eight employees, the company now builds its drones in Richfield.
Its flagship model, the E400, has fixed wings plus four vertically mounted propellers that enable it to take off and land nearly anywhere. It comes with advanced mapping functions, multi- and hyper-spectral camera capabilities, and can fly for 90 minutes at a time.
“Our customer is someone who already has two or three multi-rotor drones,” Taylor said. “They say, ‘I keep getting contracts for 800-acre jobs and it takes me all day to do it.'”