Could northeast Indiana be the next global hub for drone repair?

Today, many industries—including retail, real estate, and agriculture—use drone technology to improve efficiency and cut costs. 

And around the world, drone use is only expected to grow. The commercial drone market is expected to reach 17 billion by 2024, according to a statement by Global Market Insights, Inc.

But what happens if and when these unmanned flying vehicles break?

Right now, the only known drone technicians are in California or China, which means a significant delay in turnaround. 

A collaboration of local social service organizations is on the cusp of tapping into a virtually untapped market in the United States, and giving it a home base in northeast Indiana.

The idea began with Mark Terrell, CEO of Lifeline Youth & Family Services, Crosswinds, and Lasting Change.

Lifeline Youth and Family Services provides home-based counseling for families and residential treatment options for teens and families in crisis. Lasting Change, Inc. is a supporting organization to those goals.

Mark Terrell has a vision for helping individuals, families and nonprofits through a skills development program.

Terrell's team was able to connect with Adam Morrison, the owner of Streamline Designs LLC in Indianapolis, who’s a renowned expert on drones and the evolving regulation around their use. 

Morrison was drawn to Lifeline’s mission and wanted to help them take their program to the next level by connecting it with evolving needs in the drone industry.

“We started talking about how to use next-generation technology (for our youth) to become more productive and involved citizens,” Terrell says.

And so the concept behind the Next Generation Skills program was born.

The idea is to provide struggling youth with the technical and soft skills needed to succeed in a drone repair job and beyond, with the dual goals of creating a strong base for drone work in northeast Indiana and empowering youth to succeed in life no matter what job they do.

While drone work is highly technical, Terrell says it's often the soft skills that might make the biggest difference for the youth he works with. In his words, it’s the “simple things,” like making eye contact, knowing how to work, and being able to communicate, that many of their teens lack because they aren’t being taught in school. 

“These three things are what someone needs to go be successful,” he says. "(Having them) will set them apart no matter what they do,” he says.

Northeast Indiana could fill a gap in the evolving drone industry.

Speaking of success, Terrell says he was interested in collaborating with other organizations to make the biggest impact possible. 

Earlier this year, he was made aware of Ambassador Enterprises’ SEED Challenge, which encourages nonprofits to work together around a common cause. His organization applied for the challenge in collaboration with Streamline Designs LLC and The Crossing.

Streamline Designs will provide the consultation necessary to develop the Next Generation Skills program. The Crossing empowers struggling students to become contributing members of their communities through academics, job training, and faith-based character education.

Last month, their team was collectively awarded $80,000 for their initiative, which has allowed planning for the Next Generation program to officially begin.

Terrell says their concept is getting noticed because of its innovative approach in using social services to fill a global industry gap.

“No one else is doing it in the social services space,” he says. 

It’s also noteworthy because the enterprise will be a for-profit entity, a social enterprise. 

“We want to help kids, families, and other non-profits become more successful,” he says, noting that they plan to replicate their anticipated success in a consulting relationship with other nonprofits around the country. 

But that’s his long-term vision.

For now, Terrell says they are very much in the early stages of the drone repair program, but the funds will help them hire and create, or buy curriculum.

The program will formally launch within the next year. They are looking for space to lease or use in collaboration with another organization to get started.

His goal is to be self-sufficient by the third year, which he acknowledges is an “aggressive” timeline.

In the meantime, Terrell welcomes financial support from anyone in the community who wants to advance the program. Those interested may make a gift here. 

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
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