Printed Headline: Why Cape May?
Cape May County, located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, provides ideal weather, varied landscapes, complex airspace and metropolitan locations for drone use and testing.
A few years ago, the county recognized an opportunity to foster innovation. Starting with monthly meet-ups of drone operators and escalating to hosting symposiums and drone conferences, the county now hosts a drone incubator.
The county’s efforts attracted drone and software company Luftronix, which in turn became “very much a driver of the incubator,” says Carole Mattessich, Cape May County director of economic development.
The county has built an 1,800-ft.2 facility, set to open in May, specifically for drone startups that has capacity for about 10 start-ups and will include a makerspace and offices. Will Morey, a Cape May County Freeholder (essentially a commissioner), would like to launch with three when it officially opens.
“I think success for us is activity,” says Morey. “It’s a regular schedule of public purpose-oriented research and development flights, a growing number of companies that wish to participate in them, and ultimately having those companies put down roots here.”
The county has had to create specifications for the facility as the incubator has developed. “Drone startups are unique for a few reasons,” says Aaron Sykes, founding board member of the MAVMeetup, a drone community in Minnesota. “They are usually multidisciplinary—innovating on a combination of hardware, software, user interface and business processes. For all intents and purposes, there aren’t any real standards on how any of this should work.”
As it drew up plans for the facility, the county gathered feedback from potential drone startups about what they would look for in an incubator. Morey says he and his colleagues realize the county must be nimble in its continuing support of the businesses after the incubator launches