Skydive Long Island has sold its 16-acre site at the Calverton Enterprise Park to an aerospace startup company that is developing solar-powered high-altitude communications drones.
Supervisor Sean Walter announced the sale during a town board work session this morning.
Walter described the new owner, Luminati Aerospace, as “a research and development company” that “will set the stage for what happens at EPCAL going forward.”
“They are developing very, very large solar-powered drones that will fly in the atmosphere at about 60,000 feet,” Walter said. The unmanned aircraft are designed to provide communication services to satellites and space stations, he said.
It’s a new technology and will be a new growth industry, with big technology players like Facebook and Google in the forefront. Facebook launched its first full-scale solar-powered communications drone in July as part of its Internet.org effort.
Luminati Aerospace, which registered as a limited liability company in the State of New York in July, has already closed on the purchase of the site, according to Skydive founder and president Ray Maynard.
Maynard, who established Skydive Long Island in 1986 and bought the Calverton property in 2000, said today he is retiring and looking forward to playing golf and tennis with his wife. He has had health issues this year, including a bout of shingles and a stroke he described as minor. He said his health forced him to shut down skydiving operations several weeks earlier than usual.
Maynard was deeply affected by two recent skydiving accidents, one of them fatal, in the last two years. In July 2014, a student skydiver was killed and his instructor seriously injured in a freak weather-related incident. Last month, an instructor was seriously injured in a mid-air collision.
He said he had been in discussions with the principals in Luminati for “a very long time.”
The new owner, Maynard said, is “going to make the Town of Riverhead very happy. It’s going to create a lot of high-paying, high-tech jobs. It’s going to put the Town of Riverhead on the map.”
Maynard said the company had been based in California. The supervisor and his deputy Jill Lewis were “instrumental” in bringing them to Riverhead, Maynard said. “They made them feel welcome. Without their encouragement it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
He said he couldn’t say more because he signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Luminati representatives will attend next week’s work session to discuss a runway use agreement which the company will need to sign with the town for use of the EPCAL site’s active runway.
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