Florida Today FeaturePosted on January 19, 2012
To download a PDF version of this release, CLICK HERE.
Brevard’s L2 Aerospace may build, test aerial vehicles on Space Coast Brevard company’s rocket lifts camera “Popular Science” magazine on Wednesday recognized L2 Aerospace’s Instant Eyes surveillance device in its annual “Best of What’s New” list of innovative technologies.
Written by James Dean | FLORIDA TODAY
November 17, 2011
CAPE CANAVERAL — In Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers under attack by insurgents need to know if safety or danger lies over a mountain ridge.
In Brevard County, a firefighter surrounded by a fast-moving brush fire needs a quick survey of potential escape routes.
There’s no time to waste. Both might someday grab a flashlight-sized device called “Instant Eyes” from a backpack, launch the rocketpropelled sensor system skyward and within 20 seconds begin receiving high-resolution images of the surrounding terrain on a phone or laptop.
“It’s meant for instant intelligence, so you can get a picture of what’s on the other side of the building or what’s on the other side of the hill,” said Lance Lord, the retired four-star general and former head of Air Force Space Command who founded start-up L2 Aerospace, the co-developer of Instant Eyes.
L2, which earlier this year received $500,000 from Space Florida to help complete prototypes, is close to choosing a primary manufacturing site for Instant Eyes, and two of the three potential locations are in Brevard County.
Another $1.2 million from the state will support development of a next-generation product that “uses suborbital related techniques for implementation,” according to a public meeting agenda, and could also bring work to Brevard.
For Space Florida, the investments are part of a push to diversify the state’s aerospace sector beyond traditional government spaceflight programs, including more emphasis on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
Though Instant Eyes measures nine inches long, weighs under a pound and only shoots up 2,500 feet, it is considered a miniature UAV.
It’s the first of several the company plans to roll out that fly at higher and higher altitudes, eventually reaching “the edge of space,” says President and Chief Operating Officer James Royston of Melbourne, one of the company’s three Florida residents.
In addition to the potential manufacturing operations, the Cape could play a part in testing of L2’s larger rocketpropelled products to come.
“It’s my intention to continue to develop the business there in Florida,” said Lord, who is based in Colorado.
There’s no clear sense yet of how big L2’s local presence might become. Space Florida anticipates its support will help create about 100 jobs over four years.
Lord founded L2 a little over a year ago after stepping down as CEO of Astrotech Space Operations, which processes military, science and commercial satellites for launch.
The company has just 15 employees, with several former Astrotech executives on the senior management team.
The largest group provides engineering support services at the Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, while another focuses on cyber security.
Instant Eyes prototypes were developed and flown in just eight months with New Zealand-based partner RocketLab. L2 will manufacture and market the product exclusively.
With the crack of a .22-caliber rifle and puff of smoke, a small solid rocket motor quickly deploys a fivemegapixel camera that wirelessly beams back images embedded with location data as it parachutes to the ground. A big-picture view narrows to distinguish people and then facial features — in all, about 120 images are generated during the two-minute flight.
The military, U.S. Border Patrol and first-responders are the immediate target customers, but it’s possible lowerend models could be designed for retail sale. Royston wouldn’t say how much an Instant Eyes unit will cost.
L2 hopes to announce its manufacturing site within a couple of months and begin large-scale production by next spring.
Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.← Air and Space Magazine Feature Florida Flights Validate Instant Eyes Functionality →