Does drone industry pose local possibilities?

Posted: September 7, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Development officials hope the area business community can become involved in the drone industry.

Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Barker said staff members of the agency attended a defense trade show in Washington, D.C., last month.

The event offered a chance to explore potential markets for business advancement that the commission had not aggressively investigated, he said.

The strict controls on drones make it unlikely that the Winchester region could attract manufacturers of the actual devices, Barker said.

“The federal government regulates the use of these things right now, and so much of the users of these right now are military,” he said.

However, the EDC staff thinks Winchester and Frederick County could become a source for the components used in the drone industry.

“One potential match could be going after the folks who manufacture the briefcase — if you want to call it that — that these devices are put in,” Barker said.

Most of them are plastic, he said.

“Because we’ve got a plastic cluster, and because there’s a growing demand for these unmanned vehicles, the [manufacturers of the] storage cases may be something that we may be able to market to,” Barker said.

He cited Rubbermaid as a local plastics manufacturer, and noted the available workforce.

The drone industry bears watching, according to Barker. “There’s a lot of promise and a lot of growth in that sector.”

One local company is already involved in the drone industry.

Winchester Tool LLC, on Industrial Drive south of Kernstown, fabricates metal parts for government and private-sector clients.

It provides components used in the manufacture of drones, aircraft carriers and land mine-detection equipment.

— Contact Sally Voth atsvoth@winchesterstar.com