Getting a Hawk's Eye View
CRISFIELD, MD - Move over Capt. Willie and Chopper 16, you’ve got company in the skies over Delmarva.
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore entertained the crowd at the 2010 J. Millard Tawes’ seafood festival with a powered paraglider suspending a banner underneath promoting the school’s growing programs in engineering and aviation sciences.
It’s a sign of things to come from the Maryland Hawk Corporation, UMES’ research and economic development initiative that collaborates with local companies aiming to create high-tech jobs for the Eastern Shore.
One such project is designing and building the next generation of lightweight aircraft that resemble an extreme dune buggy powered by a small motor and huge propeller – all kept aloft by a parachute. Entrepreneurs working with UMES researchers and students are looking for ways to make paragliders stronger and lighter.
"We are expecting that in the near future, Engineering and Aviation Science students at UMES will have opportunities to participate in future design, training, operation, and instruction of these aircraft,” UMES President Thelma B. Thompson said.
Festival-goers at the Tawes’ event put down their crab mallets to watch an aerial show by Capt. Hank Austin that provided a respite from the politicking. Conversations stopped and cell phones were aimed skyward to snap photos of Austin as he methodically circled downtown Crisfield.
Entrepreneurs see powered paragliders having broad appeal. Ron G. Forsythe Jr., UMES’ vice president for technology and commercialization, said future applications might include commercial clients, public safety, emergency management, homeland security, military, tourism and outdoor sporting adventures.
"UMES has demonstrated for years that it knows how to turn capital investments into high-tech jobs,” Forsythe said. “That is why the Governor and the Legislators are investing in the new Engineering and Aviation Sciences building at UMES."
UMES is focused, Forsythe said, on “helping companies create technology-based jobs in the region and is now building the support structures for students to spin off new high-tech businesses locally.”
Partnerships between the UMES Rural Development Center's Revolving Loan Fund, the U.S. Commerce and Agriculture departments and Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development have enabled the university to invest in such technology firms as Hardwire, NavTrak, Harvard Custom Manufacturing, BelArt, AviHome and Matech.
Matech, a Salisbury-based design and engineering company, is working with Austin and Robert Nolan of Innovative Flight Solutions, Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va., to establish a satellite office on the Lower Shore to manufacture the kind of flying machine that dazzled seafood lovers in Crisfield.
Manned and un-manned paragliders – also known as powerchutes – have the ability to stay aloft for over 22 hours with speeds ranging from 22-to-73 knots, Nolan said. In a ground mode, speeds of over 80 miles per hour are possible, he said.
UMES’ technology-based incubator has lots of ideas in the works, Forsythe said. “You haven't seen anything yet,” he said. “Just wait until you see the companies and projects that we have in the pipeline.”
Candice Evans, UMES Office of Public Relations, (410) 651-6669, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gail Stephens, assistant director, UMES Office of Public Relations, (410) 651-7580, email@example.com