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Silent Arrow Gets Air Force Drone Contract

Another milestone has been reached in Orange County’s growing role as a hub for drone innovation.

Laguna Hills-based Silent Arrow said it has received U.S. Air Force funding to develop a motor-powered cargo delivery drone with a far greater range than current glider drones.

The drone, dubbed the CLS-300, will carry a payload of 1,000 pounds almost 350 land miles in risky and hostile environments for military supply and humanitarian relief.
Silent Arrow’s Small Business Innovation Research contract is with AFWERX, a program of the Air Force. Financial terms were undisclosed.

Company founder and CEO Chip Yates said it “will start with one unit, then make more, then make mass production decisions as we have before.”

Right now, it’s “very early days yet” for the new model, Yates told the Business Journal on Dec. 20.

The new CLS-300 will utilize an innovative propulsion unit and propeller system that are inexpensive enough to allow the cargo drone to be written off as a loss, once used, according to the company.

“We believe we will emerge as the leaders in this space,” Yates said of the new-generation drones.

Drone Town

Several other drone companies have sprung up in OC in recent years.

Drone designer and maker Dzyne Technologies recently announced plans to significantly ramp up its local presence.

Defense contractor Anduril Industries in Costa Mesa late last year introduced its jet-powered Roadrunner anti-drone product for military and civilian use. The Roadrunner is reusable.

The area’s concentration of drone work for the military can be traced back to legendary developer Abe Karem, often referred to in the industry as the “drone father.”

Satellite Maker Sees OC Aerospace ‘Renaissance’

Eric Jensen, the head of Irvine-based satellite maker Iceye US, believes Orange County is experiencing a renaissance in innovative aerospace work.

The company set up shop in 2021, and so far ­has built “just under 10” spacecraft that keep a close eye on the Earth below.

He sees his company standing apart from traditional aerospace manufacturers in Southern California.

“We’re seeing a shift because these small satellites open up possibilities for companies like ours, who can do incredible, world-changing things with their technology but on a smaller scale than has been classically available,” Jensen said.

He adds: “That is fueling a Renaissance in aerospace innovation. I think that Orange County will become more and more vibrant over time.”

In addition to his own company, Jensen cites satellite maker Terran Orbital Corp. (NYSE: LLAP), with the bulk of its operations in Irvine, among the companies “looking at Orange County and SoCal as a great place to call home.”

“We are working closely with the United States Army. We work closely with the National Reconnaissance Office on the intelligence side, and we work directly with NOAA and NASA on the civil side,” Jensen said.

“For 2024 we’ll be moving on to our next-generation assets,” that serve customers even better, the CEO said.

Iceye US, a subsidiary of Finnish company Iceye, has more than 60 employees.

An Iceye US-built satellite was among four the company launched on Nov. 11.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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