HONAKER, VA – November 28, 2018 – Describing himself as a man of faith, Tim Whited, 36, of Honaker says his new company, Praise Aeronautics LLC, is a prayer answered and a dream. Formed in March by the Russell County native, his company offers drone operations such as data acquisition for infrastructure inspection, agriculture and other services and is a recent recipient of an up to $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) seed capital matching grant.
“Drone technology is really still in infancy, and everyone is looking for more and more applications for using drones,” said Whited. “My business plan helped open my eyes on what the business can do and what it can become.”
Praise Aeronautics is one of three drone-related businesses approved by VCEDA in October for seed capital matching grants, and among the first drone type businesses to locate in the region.
Whited worked with Margie Douglass, director of the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College, to prepare his business plan and application to VCEDA for the seed capital matching grant program. The VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund is designed to assist VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees.
A respiratory therapist, Whited is the Clinical Coordinator/Sleep Lab Supervisor at the Lebanon, Va. sleep clinic for Ballad Health. He says he has always had an interest in aeronautics and used to play with remote control airplanes and drones growing up in Honaker where he lives today with his wife Beverly and eight-year-old daughter Nevaeh (“Heaven spelled backwards.”)
He is a self-taught drone pilot, studied on his own then took the exam to obtain a FAA-certified commercial remote pilot license. Whited currently has two rotary drones he uses in Praise Aeronautics offering a wide range of custom drone operations that include collecting data for infrastructure inspection, agriculture and wildlife surveillance, construction site surveillance, 2D and 3D site mapping, public safety, search and rescue, media and marketing.
Whited said he plans to use his seed capital matching grant to purchase equipment and software for various business platforms and a fixed wing drone that can “fly longer and more distance.” With more equipment and dual cameras, Whited said, the drones can fly safe distances from cell towers, for example, and still do visual inspection looking for cracks or invasive species such as bird or yellow jacket nests.
Praise Aeronautics is certified as a SWAM vendor with the Commonwealth of Virginia and is currently partnered as a “Highlighted Prime Subcontractor” with two large corporations within a multi-state region that can respond to solicitations for unmanned aerial solution services.
Target markets for Praise Aeronautics include local, state and federal government, construction, mining and agricultural industries and realty companies.
“VCEDA added unmanned systems as a target industry several years ago, and helping entrepreneurs like Tim Whited build a new business in our region is what the seed capital matching grant program is all about,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel.
Whited hopes to add six full-time jobs within five years “That would include drone pilots, data analysts and visual observers. I think it is a wonderful blessing to create a good company and give someone a good job and opportunity,” said Whited.