July 14, 2024

UAS Test Site: Catalyst to Airport Growth

UAS test site
Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport.

The idea of an unmanned, aviation test site was only talk when Matt Scassero was recruited to lead an FAA initiative for UAS test sites. Two years later, in 2014, the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site opened for business at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport in California, MD.

Today the UMD UAS Test Site is an international presence in the field of unmanned systems. The Test Site targets the transfer of knowledge and research capabilities. As a leading voice in the civil/commercial UAS field, the Test Site has created relationships across a wide variety of stakeholders and capabilities. One of its assignments made history, delivering a donor kidney to surgeons at the UMD Medical Center in Baltimore. Mr. Scassero reports the recipient is doing fine.

In addition to growing its own credentials, the Test Site is proving the catalyst for a burgeoning Aviation Technology Park, says Ken Reed of S. Hunt Aero, developer of the aviation, technology, and manufacturing business campus at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport.

“The University of Maryland has made a huge difference,” Mr. Reed says, “here at the airport, and also next door.” The campus of the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland is adjacent to the airport property and will break ground this year for the campus’ third building, the Academic and Innovation Center.

TechPort Business Incubator was one of the next tenants to join the UAS Test Site at the airport campus. TechPort’s launch and continuing operations also involve a collaboration of university, county government, and private business interests. S. Hunt Aero built the incubator facility, which was designed to house innovators in a way that encourages experimentation, fabrication, and collaboration. The facility includes work space with specialized equipment available, such as 3-D printers. The operations include link-ups to help entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality, and then into successful businesses.

The incubator particularly looks to leverage the UAS testing capabilities unique to the Test Site as well as the USMSM academic campus next door. All of these assets — incubator, Test Site, and growing academic campus — are part of St. Mary’s County’s economic development plans to leverage county assets to help businesses expand, attract new business, and grow the region’s economic base.

That is exactly what is happening, says Mr. Reed.

S. Hunt Aero is designing and building facilities for what is becoming a steady stream of companies seeking research,  fabrication, and manufacturing space near the naval aviation industry and talent pool drawn to NAS Patuxent River. As more companies locate here, Mr. Reed explains, the more businesses will be drawn to the synergy of a center of high-tech research and development capabilities.

That appears to already be happening. St. Mary’s Economic Development Director Chris Kaselemis gave a tour last month of the new facilities already completed by S. Hunt Aero. The campus overlooks the county-owned airport terminal, which is being addressed to better serve the also growing private, civil aviation community, Mr. Kaselemis says.

In addition to the test site and incubator, the tour spotlighted some of the firms open for business at the airport:

ALION, an engineering, science, and technology firm with expertise in Artificial Intelligence, ISR, LVC Training, Modernization and Sustainment, Networks and Software, Systems Engineering and Integration, and Weapons Platforms.

ABSI Aerospace and Defense, with expertise in Unmanned Systems Training and Curriculum Development, Acquisition and Program Management Support, Manned/Unmanned Test and Evaluation, and Secondsky LVT Training Environment.

Pax Aero Solutions, specializing in aircraft modification, integration, and repair is expanding its Engineering Design, Scanning, and Analysis Services as well as its and fabrication services including Modification and Integration, Mechanical Fabrication, and Electrical Fabrication.

Also newly located to the airport is the headquarters of Chesapeake Technology International, offering advanced technology engineering including systems work on Electronic Warfare, Tactical/Unmanned, and Training/Simulation.

For leasing information about the airport, contact Ken Reed at [email protected] or 301-904-9928.

To learn more about S. Hunt Aero, visit its Leader member page.

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