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Insitu uses engines built by Orbital Corporation to power its ScanEagle UAV. INSITU

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Originally published Nov. 30, 2017

The unmanned aircraft industry cluster in the Columbia River Gorge is growing yet again. An Australian company that specializes in drone engines plans to open a factory in Hood River, Oregon, early next year.

Orbital Corporation announced it has leased a newly built industrial and office building in Hood River where it will assemble and test small aircraft engines. The number of new jobs created appears modest at first.

“Generally we would be employing somewhere in the range of 12 to 15 staff, expanding to up to 30 within a 12 to 18 month time frame based on our expansion plans,” an Orbital executive emailed.

Conveniently, and not coincidentally, Orbital’s space is practically next door to its biggest U.S. customer, a Boeing subsidiary named Insitu. Insitu uses Orbital’s engine to power its fixed-wing military and commercial reconnaissance drone, the ScanEagle.

Insitu is now the largest private company in the Gorge. Since it started there, other companies in the sector have set up shop leading to area getting the occasional nickname Dronetown USA.

The industry cluster also includes drone maker Aerovel, transponder maker Sagetech, Hood Technology and Overwatch Imaging, among others.

“We have been looking for the right property for Orbital’s needs for some time,” Orbital CEO Todd Alder said in a statement. “Securing an exclusive long term lease over a new purpose built facility in such a highly sought after location in Hood River is a fabulous outcome.”

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