OKLAHOMA CITY – JD Claridge admits he has always had an affinity for things that flew. After all, he was just seven years old and living in northern Idaho when he attempted to build his first aircraft: a glider made out of duct tape and rebar he got out of his barn.
“The glider weighed about 100 pounds and really had no chance to get off the ground. So, I convinced my best friend to be the first to fly it,” he recalled.
“We strapped my dad’s oversized motorcycle helmet on him and he ran down this gigantic sledding hill and leaped off this box I had constructed to give him more lift. He hit the ground and the glider just buckled underneath him,” Claridge chuckled.
Aside from an injured chin and a few other body parts, Claridge said his best friend survived the crash but they both learned something that day.
“It’s all about the process,” Claridge said. That belief has also carried over into his adult life as co-founder of xCraft, a drone company located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that develops innovative vehicles for the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry, including its flagship product, the hybrid X PlusOne, the PhoneDrone Ethos and its most recent offering, the x2 Geo.
As one of the keynote speakers for the UAS Tech Forum August 30-31 in Wichita, Kansas, Claridge will share his thoughts on the present state of the UAS industry and where he thinks it is heading, and how an appearance two years ago on ABC’s “Shark Tank” impacted his company in ways he would have never imagined.
Joining Claridge on the keynote stage will be Marty Rogers, executive director of the Mississippi State University-led ASSURE program.
ASSURE (Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence) is the Federal Aviation Administration’s academic research arm that conducts research on UAS and its safe integration into the National Air Space.
Twenty-three of the world’s leading UAS research universities, including Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, along with approximately 100 leading industry and government partners, comprise the ASSURE program.
Rogers, an Air Force veteran who has an extensive aviation and corporate research and development background, joined the ASSURE team in June 2016. He said the program’s recent emphasis has been spent on kinetic energy research, which is related to air-to-ground impact and air-to-air impact.
“Imagine a small unmanned aircraft – a multi-rotor or quadcopter, for instance – flying over a group of people and, for whatever reason, ends up crashing into the ground and essentially hits people. From a safety perspective, what does all that mean?” Rogers said.
Phase One of that research has already been completed, according to Rogers, and will lead to Phase Two testing later this month where a broader range of aircraft will be tested.
Rogers said his main objective for the Tech Forum will be describing to the audience what ASSURE is doing from a regulatory perspective to support eventual UAS commercial operations within the National Air Space.
“I think people want to understand more fully what their return on investment will be in this technology, either internally for their company to support their own needs or as potential service providers to other companies to meet their needs. So, UAS operating reliably, especially BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight), is going to be very important to them,” Rogers stated.
Regarded as the annual anchor event for the UAS Cluster Initiative for Oklahoma and Kansas, a collaborative funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Tech Forum will bring together in one place, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, technology transfer professionals, economic development officials and other service providers.
In addition to the keynote presentations from Claridge and Rogers, forum participants will also have the opportunity to hear various technology presentations and thought-provoking panel discussions. Networking opportunities with other attendees and exhibitors will be available throughout the event as well as various investment opportunities.
The agenda also includes pitch sessions where pre-selected and prepped entrepreneurs and researchers showcase their technologies to a wide array of potential strategic partners, investors and licensees.
The UAS Cluster Initiative is partnering with several entities to put on the Tech Forum, including host organizations the Kansas Department of Transportation, Greater Wichita Partnership, Wichita State University and Kansas State University.
Anyone wishing to register for the 2017 UAS Tech Forum may do so by visiting the Cluster Initiative website at https://uascluster.com/pages/techforum2017-home.html.
About the Cluster Initiative
Administered by Development Capital Networks, the Cluster Initiative’s mission is to accelerate the growth of the UAS Industry by enabling established companies and emerging entrepreneurs, in particular those located in Oklahoma and Kansas, to connect, work together and gain access to national technologies, global capital, advanced business models and global markets. It accomplishes this through a variety of activities and events, including webinars, SBIR workshops, mentoring and acceleration services, roundtable discussions, a student UAS competition, the UAS Tech Forum and other networking opportunities.