The FAA is coming out with new rules requiring that drones have no exposed rotating parts — good news for Lectratek’s ducted fan propulsion systems. The final rules will be released in January.
Under the Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People rules, drones will be required to have no exposed rotating parts that could potentially lacerate human skin. For example, if the propellers that provide lift and thrust for the small unmanned aircraft are internal to the unmanned aircraft, such as in a ducted fan configuration, and are incapable of making contact with a person as a result of an impact, then the parts would not be exposed, and the aircraft would satisfy this proposed requirement.
Lectratek is poised to provide the suitable propulsion systems as well as lightweight batteries required for electric flight.
Launch Dayton, Dayton’s on-line startup community of entrepreneurial “ecosystem builders,” announced the top 10 startups to watch in 2021. Lectratek was listed among them.
“Lectratek LLC is looking to power the world’s first flying cars. The startup is focused on powering eAviation technologies for an industry poised for dramatic growth in the coming years. A spinout of private aerospace and defense firm Cornerstone Research Group, Lectratek leverages two decades’ worth of federally sponsored research into electric aviation for applications from commercial and industrial drones to mid-tier commercial airliners. The current team is actively recruiting for executive leadership and business development positions.” –Launch Dayton
CRG’s Venture Studio today has launched an electric aviation (eAviation) technology company, Lectratek LLC. This new company is focused on powering eAviation technologies for an industry poised for dramatic growth.
Lectratek leverages core proprietary technologies developed over the years by CRG. Initial offerings will include engineering services and aircraft components related to electric propulsion, advanced affordable composites, and safe energy storage. Growth over time is anticipated to eventually touch virtually all aspects of electric aviation powertrains and some structural components. The new company is already off to a strong start, leveraging over $25 million of prior DoD/NASA investment at CRG, including three new Agility Prime contracts.
“Nothing could be more appropriate to the Dayton region’s inventive roots than growing a company to be a leader in the next wave of aviation,” said CRG’s CEO Patrick Hood. “Electric aviation is rapidly moving from something people dream about to something people will use every day, and Lectratek is positioned to be a leader in the field.”
Lectratek is the first new company coming out of CRG’s recently formed Venture Studio to gain critical mass, according to Andrew Cothrel, CRG’s Chief Venture Officer. “We are really pleased with how quickly customer demand is becoming tangible for Lectratek, particularly for our highly unique propulsion solutions,” said Cothrel. “While it is still early days in eAviation, this is a market forecasting to be worth $178B by 2040, and we think Lectratek has something to offer that can lead to enduring success.”
NASA has selected 17 U.S. companies for partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies for the Moon and beyond through the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s 2020 Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity.
CRG will evaluate a 3-D printing method that makes use of slurry-based thermoset resins to fabricate thermal protective systems. CRG will partner with NASA centers to test and evaluate the material’s performance in flight-relevant environments, utilizing NASA facilities and experts at Johnson and Ames.
Other companies involved in these space technologies include Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
The Dayton Business Journal posted an article about CRG’s zoning approval to commence a battery manufacturing process at its new facility at 8821 Washington Church Road. CRG acquired the property in January, 2020, and it added 126,000 square feet of manufacturing or production space, 36,000 square feet of warehouse space and 12,000 square feet of office space.
“The [zoning] decision will enable CRG to outfit a 2,000-square-foot space inside the building to develop batteries for the Department of Defense that are approximately the size and thickness of a credit card,” said Jeffrey Bennett, CRG’s Vice President of Operations. “Five to eight of them will be put together in a pack, so it will be about the size of a deck of cards. It is then incorporated into body armor for troops on the ground.”
Upon completion and renovation, the new facility will be CRG’s third location in the Dayton region.
CRG announced today the formal launch of its Venture Studio. The CRG Venture Studio will be in charge of identifying and prioritizing commercial opportunities coming out of CRG’s innovations and then creating new startup companies.
CRG has established a successful track record of commercializing new technologies, spinning off five companies over the past 15 years, including Spintech Holdings and Advantic. However, as CRG’s founder and CEO, Patrick Hood said, “The breadth and depth of technology and inventions that CRG’s employees have created over the years is mind-boggling. We needed a methodical way to more rapidly tap that potential for the benefit of future medical, consumer, and industrial customers as well as to more effectively grow the value of the business.”
The CRG Venture Studio is dedicated to identifying CRG’s most promising commercial opportunities and spinning off new companies to bring those innovations to market. “We investigated a lot of options, looking at the state of the art in business accelerators, incubators, studios, and other concepts for improving the odds of successful technology commercialization,” said Chris Hemmelgarn, CRG’s Chief Revenue Officer. “While we know there will be some lessons and pivots, we are confident we are on the right track to unlock an enormous amount of company value and societal benefit from the Venture Studio… we think we have already identified the next five new startup company opportunities.”
Collaborators within Southwest Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, including The Entrepreneur’s Center (TEC), are enthusiastic about CRG’s Venture Studio. “We are excited to work with CRG and its Venture Studio to translate ground-breaking defense technologies into broader commercial use,” said Scott Koorndyk, CEO of TEC. “This is a huge boost for the region’s ecosystem and a great opportunity for new high-tech companies to take root in the region.”
HEATCON®, Inc., a world market leader in composite repair solutions and material supply, has entered into an agreement with Cornerstone Research Group to license CRG’s Deployable Isolation Repair Technology (DIRT BagTM) products for manufacture and distribution.
“This new product is a game changer for those working in repair technology, and we are excited to partner with CRG to bring the DIRT BagTM to the composite repair market,” said Eric Casterline, President of HEATCON. “This product is an ideal complement to Heatcon’s portable composite repair equipment, further reducing the time needed to complete a repair.”
The DIRT BagTM is used by both military and commercial aircraft repair organizations, is listed in Boeing structural repair manuals and the F-35 General Use Consumables List (GUCL), and can be used for other applications where contamination control is needed. It can be set up in minutes and customized for each repair or coating removal situation.
Cornerstone Research Group is under contract with the Missile Defense Agency to manufacture high-temperature, carbon-carbon composite materials that enable advanced hypersonic technologies. This $7 million contract was made possible by provisions Congressman Mike Turner (OH-10) included in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and in FY 2020 Defense Appropriations.
Congressman Turner said, “This contract between Cornerstone Research Group and the Missile Defense Agency will reduce costs, increase production, and enhance performance of maturing high-speed platforms required to counter emerging threats from our nation’s near-peer adversaries.” Read the press release here.
For the last decade, CRG has been developing unique subsystem technologies to bring aircraft design and manufacturing back to the Dayton area. Through the hard work of CRG’s newly formed Aerospace Systems Center, they now have multiple aircraft under development. In the past three months, CRG designed and tested two different aircraft platforms, both produced here in Dayton with support from outstanding regional partners.
These aircraft vary in weight from 50 to 1200 pounds and range in size up to a 30-foot wingspan. CRG intends to establish full-fledged aircraft production facilities as the systems currently under development are matured and transitioned.
In 2019, CRG added 31 new employees, for an increase of 48% to previous staff. This was a record percentage increase in one year and brought CRG’s total employee count (excluding affiliates and subsidiaries) to 95. The growth in staff was needed to support a variety of new contract awards. Staff were also added in a variety of technical areas in order to both broaden and deepen the company’s core competencies. In addition, CRG added some key executive positions and a few business staff to support the growing contract base.
In mid-2017 Dr. Patrick Hood, CEO, challenged the organization to double its 2016 revenue by 2019 by focusing on strategic planning, technical and programmatic excellence, and organizational design. CRG achieved 85% growth over this period, slightly less that the original goal, but has positioned the organization for continued growth into 2020 and beyond.
According to Dr. Hood, “The growth we achieved in 2019 was the result of our team delivering strong technically, the addition of key strategic partners to support our efforts, and restructuring our government reimbursement rates so we can be competitive not just in R&D activities but also in production, technical services and in programs where we have large pass-through costs for key subcontractors.”
On the technical front, 2019 saw growth in four principal areas in which CRG demonstrated strong technical results in the past. First, in the field of aerospace systems, CRG was awarded several contracts for which they were able to leverage previously demonstrated technology. Two of these programs required CRG to rapidly design, build and test aircraft with unique capabilities – both of which were successful. Second, in the field of sensor technology, CRG was awarded contracts to develop both garment-integrated and small pod-like biosensors to monitor the health of military personnel and monitor their environment for toxic materials.
Third, CRG’s proprietary high-temperature resin system was successfully used to fabricate structural composites at laboratory scale. The primary value proposition for this material system is reduction in the cost and manufacturing time to fabricate high-temperature composites. Finally, the fourth area of growth was in the design and fabrication of next-generation safe, high-capacity, rechargeable battery technology and the systems that depend on them.
“With the growth we experienced last year and a strengthening sales backlog, we needed to reorganize the company to support further growth. In addition, we’re out of space, so we’ve needed to accelerate our plans for expansion.” Dr. Hood added, “2020 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for CRG.”