Skydweller Aero Coming to Oklahoma
Vol.6 Issue 7
Skydweller Aero, developers of an ultra-persistent, solar-powered drone will soon be establishing their international headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Looks like "Fly-Over Country" will soon become "Perpetual Fly-Over Country." In addition to watching hawks making lazy circles in the sky, Oklahomans may soon be able to observe airliner-sized, ultra-persistent drones flying overhead! Skydweller Aero has chosen Oklahoma City as its corporate headquarters, and will build a new hangar on airport property in Ardmore, OK for the manufacturing of their craft.

These unmanned aircraft will be solar powered, so there will be no need for frequent landing and refueling. They have the capability of "dwelling" over a location for months at a time without maintenance. Skydweller drones will have a huge, 236-foot wingspan, and will be covered with 2,900 sq. ft. of photovoltaic cells, which provide 2 kilowatts of power. Hydrogen fuel cells can also be added for extra reliability, especially in poor weather conditions. These craft can cruise up to 100 knots and can fly up to as high as 45,931 feet. They are also being designed to meet FAA Part 23 certification requirements.

Skydweller unmanned aircraft (top view)
Skydweller unmanned aircraft (three quarter view)

Skydweller’s medium-altitude, ultra-long endurance (MALE) ships can carry up to 800 pounds of payload, which would typically include radar or camera equipment, among other peripherals. John Parkes, co-founder of Skydweller refers to the craft’s communications capabilities, "Being a node in the sky - whether for military, first responders, or the telecom world will be done better, smarter, cheaper, and more effectively." He continues, "Being able to fly thousands of miles, persist over an area for 30-60 days and fly back is a huge cost savings to the U.S. government. For us, if you’re flying for 90 days with one aircraft, that’s one take off and one landing versus hundreds with an MQ-1 or MQ-9 Reaper, for example."

The company will be hiring up to 75 employees in Oklahoma City over the next four to five years. Skydweller is considering multiple locations in the Downtown and Innovation Districts, and will announce where their official headquarters locale will be in the near future. "We hope to staff the world’s best aviation talent, hiring engineers, flight operations personnel and technicians across Oklahoma," says Abigail Duman, Marketing Communications Manager for Skydweller. "Many of the engineering roles will be based in Oklahoma City, while technician roles will be centered in Ardmore. There will be limited administrative and support roles assigned to both locations," she states.

Skydweller airship flying over countryside.

If you are interested in seeing one of the drones flying overhead, they will mostly be conducting flight tests from Ardmore. Skydweller is working hand-in-hand with the FAA and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test sites to safely operate the platform in the area. They are currently working from a prototype, and will develop follow-on production based on customer needs. Skydweller is looking to shift the purchase paradigm and work with customers to provide the best, low-cost services.

The company will be serving both commercial and government entities. There are various use cases, ranging from providing internet connection for populations that are without access, to military services such as land and maritime monitoring. The aircraft will be completely autonomous and will be flown over locations according to customer needs. With a flexible payload system, Skydweller will enhance commercial and government telecommunication, geospatial, meteorological and emergency operation efforts, allowing customers to operate persistently in more challenging areas for longer durations, while reducing environmental impact.

The airships will be able to fly different patterns to provide the best imagery and coverage. Under normal operations, they will not fly below 3,000 feet, but will primarily stay within the 5,000 to 10,000 feet realm. One of these craft will typically require a runway of 3,200 feet in length for take-offs and landings, but they are able to do so from as short as 1,300 feet if necessary.

Though space-based connectivity solutions are improving, such as SpaceX’s low Earth orbit Starlink constellation, an aircraft at medium altitude will offer significantly more efficient use of spectrum than satellites that are more than 300 miles above the surface of the earth; not to mention the ability to maneuver the aircraft in other-than-orbital directions. By coming to Oklahoma, Skydweller has drawn many enthusiastic reactions from State government officials.

Governor Kevin Stitt joins executives from Skydweller Aero Inc. to announce the establishment of the company’s headquarters and engineering operations in Oklahoma City and testing and integration in Ardmore, OK. (Photo: Oklahoma Department of Commerce)

Governor Kevin Stitt recently announced, "It has been my pleasure to work closely with the leadership team at Skydweller, and I am thrilled they have decided to locate their new headquarters in Oklahoma." He continued, "Our state’s commitment to aviation and aerospace makes Oklahoma City an ideal choice for a cutting-edge company with a commitment to advancing the industry. At a time when job creation and economic growth are so vital, we are excited that Skydweller will be hiring our bright engineers and helping to enrich our state’s economy."

"Skydweller has chosen the right state for their new headquarters and testing facility," said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. "Because of our state’s remarkable, skilled workforce, Skydweller will be an excellent addition to our aerospace industry, producing cutting-edge unmanned aviation technology for our military. I am confident that this facility will benefit our economy and our military both now and in the future."

"It’s great to welcome Skydweller to Oklahoma as they announce their plans to make Oklahoma City the new home of their U.S. headquarters. Oklahoma is home to innovative technology across all industries, so it’s no wonder they chose our state to expand their aerospace engineering to continue production of aircraft that can carry heavy payloads. This is exciting news for Oklahoma City and our state," said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Oklahoma’s Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development, Sean Kouplen, has also recently stated, "Bringing Skydweller’s headquarters and engineering operations to our state is a very exciting development, especially during these difficult economic times. I look forward to watching them become a key player in our state’s impressive aerospace sector."

Director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, Vic Bird says, "Some things that seemed impossible insofar as the operation of unmanned aircraft are being made possible by this incredible Skydweller, unmanned aircraft. Due to its renewable power, payload capacity, and capability of dwelling over a location for months at a time without refueling or maintenance, there are missions the Skydweller can do that no other aircraft can. I am ecstatic that Skydweller has chosen Oklahoma as its home for corporate and engineering operations, testing and integration."

Skydweller CEO Robert Miller explains, "The company was founded to develop ultra-persistent aircraft to enable the next generation of connectivity and global insights. We are honored to be moving our corporate headquarters to Oklahoma, following in the footsteps of Oklahoma aviation titans like Wiley Post. Oklahoma’s inspired and dedicated engineering talent will help make our vision a reality."

Skydweller Perpetual Flight logo

With a commitment to STEM education and ongoing civic engagement, Skydweller will partner with local educational and state and federal research institutions to further Oklahoma’s legacy of aviation and aerospace innovation. We are looking forward to seeing this company develop roots in Oklahoma soil, and their aircraft dwelling in the skies overhead for years to come.

Federal Aviation Aministration (FAA) seal