A new company is promising 10 jobs in January for Carrabelle if it can find a place to do business.
On Dec. 13, Bruce McCormack, CEO of Gulf Unmanned Systems Center (GUSC), a Panama City-based company that wants to test robot drones here, conducted a public meeting at the Carrabelle Municipal Center.
McCormack said he believes Carrabelle is perfect for his proposed work because the population is small and it is surrounded by a large landmass.
About 20 people gathered to hear his lecture. McCormack later said the majority of these had already submitted job applications to GUSC.
GUSC intends to test only small robot drones, weighing under 55 pounds, on land, water and air. He said the testing would be unobtrusive.
Most of the machines tested would be battery powered and produce a hum similar to an electric lawnmower, McCormack said.
About 20 percent of the drones would be airborne, he said, and would fly at 400 feet or lower and be unlikely to interfere with regular air traffic.
“We will be flying over the same area Tyndall uses now,” he said. “It is Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controlled national airspace. Nobody can fly there without permission.”
According to the FAA, use of unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS) was first authorized in 1990. Since then, the agency has sanctioned use of unmanned aircraft under limited circumstances for firefighting, disaster relief, search and rescue, law enforcement, border patrol, military training, and testing and evaluation.
Unmanned drones can be allowed to fly at up to 50,000 feet and are not approved for use in congested airspace or over large cities.
McCormack said airborne drones are mostly used to collect information. He said, using an aerial drone, it would be possible to survey Tate’s Hell in three days, compared to the three to four months required for a land-based survey.
While he envisions testing aerial drones over Tate’s Hell, McCormack said the majority of these robots would be aquatic and float or swim below the surface. These aquatic drones would be tested in state waters off the coast of Franklin County, he said.
Interviewed after the meeting, Carrabelle City Attorney Dan Hartman said the city is negotiating with Centennial Bank to allow GUSC to lease the Hexaport factory on John McInnis Road near the Thompson Field airport. The 65,000 square foot structure has remained empty since Greensteel declared bankruptcy in 2009.