New building to host Australian UAV engine company Orbital

CREWS work on a new building which is set to host an Australian drone engine-making company, Orbital, of which Bingen-based Insitu is a customer.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
CREWS work on a new building which is set to host an Australian drone engine-making company, Orbital, of which Bingen-based Insitu is a customer.

A drone engine manufacturer from West Australia has chosen Hood River for its expansion into the United States.

Orbital Corporation Limited on Dec. 11 confirmed that a “purpose-built facility” is being established here, close to the operations base for one of its major customers, Insitu.

A news release from Orbital said it will be the primary and exclusive tenant of the new building, which they expect will be ready to occupy by February.

The two-story building that is expected to host Orbital is under construction in the Wasco Loop business park, just east of Walmart. The owner and developer of the 0.8-acre light industrial-zoned property is Dean Cameron.

According to Kevin Liburdy, Hood River senior planner, Cameron submitted plans to the city in spring 2016 for a larger building at the spot, destined for Cloud Cap Technologies.

However, the developer amended his proposal this summer. The scaled down version calls for a 13,132-square-foot building instead of 19,500 square feet.

“The shell of the building is under construction based on the 2017 (site plan review) decision,” Liburdy said.

Liburdy said Friday that city staff have discussed the possibility of Orbital occupying the building, but a tenant improvement permit has not been issued.

Such permits are issued by the city building department after review by staff in various fields.

Orbital said the new facility will expand the company’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) propulsion system assembly work, and establish engine development and testing capabilities in the U.S. The company is scheduled to start their work in Hood River during the first half of 2018.

The new facility, Orbital said, is about 13,000 square-feet. Out of that, approximately 10,000 square feet are available for production and engine testing, leaving 3,000-square-feet or so for office space.

Orbital Managing Director and CEO Todd Alder expressed his excitement for the project in a statement.

“Securing this priority location for our business marks a significant milestone for the company and underpins Orbital’s UAV vision and U.S. market growth strategy,” Alder said. “We have been looking for the right property for Orbital’s needs for some time.”

The company has a five-year lease with an option to extend for two further terms of five years each. The base rent plus occupancy costs are expected to be roughly $215,000 per year.

Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary that makes drones, is based in Bingen and has an office near downtown Hood River. An Insitu representative lauded Orbital’s decision to expand into the Columbia Gorge.

“Having Orbital engineering and production support here in the Gorge will benefit not only Insitu but also our community by bringing jobs and more top industry talent to the area,” said Bill Clark, Insitu’s chief operations officer, in an emailed statement.

Alder said securing the lease in such a highly sought-after location in Hood River is a “fabulous outcome.”

“Leasing the facility represents a significant capital saving for Orbital and provides flexibility which matches our growth ambitions,” Alder said.

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