Quickstep delivers its 100th drone aircraft

Composites manufacturer Quickstep is gaining new successes in the drone manufacturing business, recently passing its 100th drone delivered for customers Swoop Aero and Carbonix.

The Sydney company is more used to manufacturing critical aerospace parts such as wing trailing edges for Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules transporter and tail components for the F-35 Lightning fighter jet.

However Quickstep got into the drone business in 2021 with a contract to develop low volume/low cost tooling for early production runs of Swoop’s Kite drone which is used to deliver medical supplies to remote locations, including in Africa.

It has designed and upgraded the process and tooling for higher volumes and improved quality, utilising the company’s proprietary AeroQure process which cut carbon fibre composite curing time 12 hours to under one – thus a single tool can produce more than 10 times more parts per day.

CEO & Managing Director Mark Burgess told @AuManufacturing: “Quickstep are now in the process of expanding the Geelong (Victoria) facility by four times to meet the growing drone and R&D demands.”

Quickstep’s second contract came in 2023 with the transfer of from Carbonix of tooling and processes for the Volanti drone which recently achieved an Australian first of CASA approved flight Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) surveying power lines for SA Power Networks.

Following work to upscale production, an order for 40 Volanti drones, and a project developing a second drone for manufacture for Carbonix – the Ottano – Quickstep passed the 100th drone delivered milestone.

Burgess said: “We are beginning to see the early stages of the adoption curve, with global regulators especially in the US moving forward with speed on BVLoS and associated regulations.

“I expect to see Quickstep continue to deliver scale and new wins in this exciting market.”

For Ottano, Quickstep was responsible for the entire manufacturing scope, from design of tools to manufacturing processes of moulding, trimming and assembly.

The company utilised all Australian tooling for the development which took only four months from contract award to serial production.

However in line with other high technology manufacturers the stock market has not looked kindly to Quickstep, despite its $94.4 million a year turnover, blue chip defence customers and burgeoning drone business.

With Quickstep not profitable, its share price has slumped from 70 cents two years ago to 15 cents today – valuing the company at $11.1 million.

As Burgess said: “In a somewhat bizarre twist our small minority holdings in Carbonix, Swoop and TB2 represent more than half of our group market capitalisation.

“We clearly need to better communicate the potential drones have for the company.”

(TB2 Aero LLC is a US drone payload business.)

Further reading:
Swoop Aero raises $16 million, expands drone production
Carbonix drones fly ‘out of sight’ to survey power network

Picture: Quickstep/mould for drone production, Quickstep Bankstown facility

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