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Dzyne, Anduril, Silent Arrow & More Boost Defense-Focused Drone Work in County

Drone designer and maker Dzyne Technologies recently announced plans to significantly ramp up its Orange County presence, in order to grab more work from the Department of Defense.

The company, which makes an assortment of long-range unmanned drones and aircraft primarily for military uses, plans to move into a 125,000-square-foot facility in the Irvine Spectrum area for research and development, engineering and manufacturing uses.

The recently struck deal for the property at 34 Parker Drive is among the larger leases signed in South OC this year.

Dzyne already has operations at a pair of Foothill Ranch sites, as well as a smaller existing facility in Irvine.

“The development of the new facility is a testament to Dzyne’s strong partnership and commitment to the Department of Defense,” Matt McCue, president and co-founder of Dzyne, said in a news release on Nov. 29.

The company reported about 200 employees as of last year; it is currently advertising for over 20 positions in OC.

Its headquarters designation is in the defense contracting hub of Fairfax, Va., though McCue lists his base as Irvine on his LinkedIn page.

40+ Hour Flights

Dzyne Technologies develops and manufactures long-endurance unmanned drones and aircraft, often referred to as “advanced uncrewed autonomous systems,” with a focus on defense applications.

The new facility will house its growing workforce and meet the U.S. Department of Defense’s increasing demand for such systems, it says.

The company calls itself “a small business specializing in the rapid design, development, and demonstration of advanced unmanned vehicles and analytic systems under demanding schedules.”

Dzyne’s products include Leap and Ultra, which can stay aloft for 40-plus and 80-plus hours at a time, respectively.

The company’s new Irvine facility is expected to open next year.

The site was previously leased to Irvine-based electric vehicle fast-charging battery maker Enevate, but never occupied by the company. Enevate opted to remain based closer to the University of California, Irvine following an executive change at the end of last year.

New Ownership

Dzyne’s new facility is the biggest news for the company since January, when the privately held firm was acquired by Dallas-based private equity firm Highlander Partners on undisclosed terms.

“We are committed to providing the resources necessary to fuel Dzyne’s growth and to deliver the cutting-edge technologies demanded by the DoD,” said Ben Slater, chairman of Dzyne and COO of Highlander Partners.

The company “has established itself as an agile, rapid-response creator of innovative autonomous technologies that break the cost dynamic established by the old guard.

Like Dzyne itself, this [Irvine] ­facility will be unique in the industry.”

Local Hub

Dzyne is not unique by one measure: planting its base in OC.

Numerous local companies in the commercial drone sector are expanding their local R&D, design, engineering, and other operations, with an eye on boosting their work with the Pentagon.

Anduril Industries last month took the wraps off a three-story, 200,000-square-foot R&D facility at its expansive Costa Mesa headquarters.

Anduril, among its growing base of products counts military-focused drones, unmanned jets, and products to combat hostile drones.

Its latest product is Roadrunner, a reusable, jet-powered flying interceptor that can intercept drones and other potential threats, at a significant cost savings to products like the Patriot missile.

It also has non-defense applications; see the Dec. 4 print edition of the Business Journal for more on the product and its applications.

Other area drone firms include Laguna Hills-based Silent Arrow, whose products include “autonomous cargo delivery aircraft capable of carrying 350 to 1,500 pounds of emergency, disaster relief and humanitarian response supplies anywhere in the world on short notice.”

Last month, Silent Arrow—which also operates as Yates Electrospace Corp.—reached a deal with European airplane maker Airbus, who will provide sales and operations support for the company’s glider cargo drones in European markets.

The military sector, including the European Defence Agency, is one potential customer, the companies said.

Drone Father

OC counts a long history in the defense contractor industry, with titans like Boeing, Raytheon and Parker Aerospace having bases in the area. The area’s concentration of drone work for the military, though, can be traced back to local resident Abe Karem, often referred to in the industry as the “drone father.”

He shook up the military world with designs completed in the mid-1990s that evolved into the Predator, an unmanned drone used in the U.S. war on terrorism; it was “the world’s most feared drone,” noted a 2013 profile in Air & Space Magazine, mentioning there were some 8,000 vehicles in operation.

In addition to the Predator, Karem also developed the military’s A160 Hummingbird unmanned helicopter.

His Lake Forest-based aerospace development company, Karem Aircraft Inc., makes manned and unmanned rotorcraft vehicles mainly for the military.

He has also been working on vertical takeoff and landing technology since the company’s founding in 2004, primarily for defense contractors.

That work led to the spinoff of one of the larger area businesses with a focus on flying taxis, Santa Ana-based Overair. The company, founded in 2020, is developing an all-electric eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft, called Butterfly, which will land and take off vertically while holding up to five passengers and a pilot.

Both Overair and Supernal, another eVTOL firm with its engineering base in Orange County, have hired hundreds here the past few years to get their prototypes up and operational in the next few years.

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