GILLIAM COUNTY, OREGON: This isolated test site in rural Oregon is where Boeing subsidiary Insitu takes its drones “to torture them,” said site manager Jerry McWithey. Temperates soar to 110 degrees in summer and plummet to 10 degrees — with 50-knot winds — in winter. The hot-and-cold ordeal the drones go through is a microcosm of the problems facing the company as a whole as the defense spending boom goes bust.
The era of exponential growth is over. When Insitu was founded back in 1998, it had just four people and a plan to build small numbers of small unmanned air vehicles for weather research. Shortly after 9/11, in February 2002, the start-up partnered with aerospace behemoth Boeing to develop military recon UAVs, and its ScanEagle drone (click here for video) first saw action over Fallujah in 2004. Keep reading →