A company that plans to make and test high-tech drones in a “multi-million” dollar operation at the Enterprise Park at Calverton will create 40 jobs locally and seek to acquire the unused the western runway at EPCAL as well, according to its chief executive officer.
But Dan Preston, CEO of Luminati Aerospace, said a lot of the specific details that reporters and town officials wanted to know about the operation were proprietary and could not be disclosed publicly, including who the drones were being built for and what exactly they’d do.
“We were formed as a dream team of engineers and university professors for the express purpose of designing and developing and manufacturing and testing next-generation solar-electric aircraft,” Mr. Preston told the Riverhead Town Board Thursday morning. “In particular, unmanned aerial vehicle vehicles or UAVs. Our project is multimillion dollars and will immediately create about 40 jobs.”
“This is an amazing opportunity,” Supervisor Sean Walter said, adding that he thinks Luminati will attract other aviation uses to EPCAL. He said the Town Board will seek to expedite their applications.
“I think this is so over the top exciting for Long Island and Riverhead that I think we’re gonna move quickly,” the supervisor said.
Luminati recently purchased the former Sky Dive Long Island building at EPCAL and will seek town approvals to build a separate 40,000-square foot building to house machines that won’t fit in the existing building, Mr. Preston said. It will also take about five to six months to build the machines once the building is done, he said.
The company plans to use the active, eastern runway at EPCAL, and as such, requires a runway use agreement from the town, which will be the subject of a public hearing at the Town Board’s Oct. 20 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.
Among the questions Mr. Preston declined to answer are who Luminati’s clients are and what the drones will actually be doing.
They will be commercial in nature and will be very safe, he said, when asked if they were constructing military drones.
“They are going to be researching and developing the construction of very, very large solar powered drones that will fly in the atmosphere at about 60,000 feet,” Mr. Walter said last week when he briefly brought up the subject.
Despite saying that he could not discuss who his clients are, Mr. Preston was peppered with questions about Google and Facebook by a throng of television and print media that attended the meeting. Google and Facebook are reportedly seeking to use drones that transmit wireless internet service.
The 40,000 square foot building the company plans must be in place before the machines needed to construct the drones can be built, Mr. Preston said. He anticipates their first two years at EPCAL being spent on research, development and testing, and that production will begin in year three.
The building’s prior owner had approvals for a new 40,000 square foot building on the same property, he said.
As for the workforce at Luminati, “About 10 of us are relocating locally,” Mr. Preston said, indicating that he is moving to Riverhead himself. “We’re all buying houses or rentals in Riverhead. I will be creating about 20 to 30 additional jobs,” to be filled by locals. He said there’s a diverse range of jobs that will be created.
According to reports by The Washington Post and Bloomberg, Mr. Preston entered college at the young age of 12 and “retired” before he turned 30 years old, selling his company for over $4 million. He later founded Atair Aerospace, a company that designed parachutes, as well as a chocolate company.
Luminati Aerospace will seek a “controlling right” to the active runway, which Mr. Walter said is what Sky Dive Long Island had, in which they had to manage flights in and out of EPCAL.
The company also plans to assume maintenance responsibility for the eastern runway, and once they have the runway use agreement for that runway, they want to begin discussions with the town about acquiring the western runway, which is not used for aviation anymore.
As for noise and other impacts, the company’s fleet is mostly solar energy powered and doesn’t make a lot of noise, Mr. Preston said.
“I don’t think anyone will notice or be upset as far as our noise impact,” he said.
Mr. Walter, who is up for re-election next month in a three-way race against fellow Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Democrat Anthony Coates, said that site plan authority at EPCAL rests with the Town Board and he believes the board will process Luminati’s applications quickly.
“In order for you to be competitive, we have to be competitive as a municipality,” he said.
“This is one step forward for Riverhead,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said.
Caption: Dan Preston (left) speaks with the Town Board on Thursday morning with attorney Robert Hasday, and Luminati CFO Barry Hintze. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)