GREENSBORO, N.C. — An aircraft company called Olaeris said it’s partnering with NC A&T and NC State. The company makes what look like large drones, but because of their size are classified as a “Remotely Piloted Aircraft” or “Optionally Piloted Aircraft,” similar to a helicopter. They weigh 50 pounds and are the size of king-sized beds.
A 911 center would send the drones to things like fires, robberies and car crashes. According to the company, the remotely piloted aircraft can get to scenes in about 90 seconds then send live video to first responders to show them what to expect.
“We’ve identified an enormous pool of engineering talent and we’re here today to talk about engineering projects with students and also to identify talent that we want to hire,” Olaeris CEO Ted Lindsley said.
Lindsley said these schools have students it could work with to help build the drones especially in the fields of computer science and engineering. Lindsley visited A&T’s campus Wednesday to meet with faculty members about projects for students and future job opportunities.
“We’re talking about things in the area of senior capstone projects, which allows our students to get experience to real life problems that exist in engineering and then come up with their own solutions,” Wayne Szafranski said, the Asst. Vice Chancellor of Outreach and Economic Development for A&T.
Olaeris just started making its first aircraft in Raleigh. The company plans to begin demonstrations in January and start attending trade shows debuting the product in March.
“It’s an exciting time for us. This is finally a chance for us to prove to the world that everything that we’ve been talking about is a reality, that the capabilities that we’ve discussed are possible,” Lindsley said.
Lindsley said he wanted Greensboro to be one of Olaeris’ hub cities, especially since the project is backed by Greensboro based aviation company – HAECO. But after a failed pitch in July, the city and Olaeris haven’t talked.
“We had discussed that in the past and we got nowhere. So, the reality is that while there’s a huge pool of engineering talent here in North Carolina, other states are moving much faster to embrace our proposition,” he said.
Greensboro City Council members say they had too many questions and concerns to move forward for now including the more than $5 million price tag for a five year contract.
“Still, it’s not a proven technology. There’s not a city that I’m aware of that’s not on board with this and said yes this is great, we’ve tested it,” council member Marikay Abuzuaiter said. “Sometimes Greensboro likes to be on the leading edge, but in a case like this where you have a lot of privacy issues and you’re not getting straight answers out of the company, you know, I have a major concern with that.”
The company said these aircraft could also be used for pipeline monitoring, disaster management, broadcasting, even to patrol the border.