Prioria gets 3 contracts for unmanned aircraft


Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.

Prioria Robotics has sealed the deal on three contracts — two from universities and a much bigger one from the U.S. government — that will result in at least 10 new employees being hired by the end of the year.

The Gainesville-based manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems is set to make four machines for Saint Louis University's Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology.

Prioria CEO Bryan da Frota said Tuesday he couldn't reveal how much the contracts are worth. He said the names of the other two purchasers will be released after he receives their permission.

“Unmanned aircraft have been primarily bought by the military, but what we're seeing is this shift into other uses besides military,” he said. “We've seen a lot of use by law enforcement. We've seen a lot of use now by universities, so we're seeing this slow transition in the marketplace.”

At universities, the aircraft are being used for training in unmanned vehicle operation, repair, safety and air traffic management, da Frota said. Saint Louis specifically will focus on safety and safety initiatives for “next-generation workforce needs,” he said.

The four machines going to Saint Louis are two of Prioria's Maveric models — lightweight, camera-equipped devices with bendable wings and that can fit in a six-inch tube — and two Tetra models — helicopter-like flyers with four blades and the ability to lift off vertically and hold positions.

The hiring of 10 or more employees will add to Prioria's workforce of 31. They're being brought in for general work on all projects, not specifically on one of the three, da Frota said.

In February, Prioria moved into a 22,000-square-foot warehouse in Gainesville's Power District that the city spent $2.6 million to overhaul. Tax rebates were given to Prioria contingent on job creation.

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