Ben Berry will tell you it’s a lucky man whose interests, training, experience and vision all converge to create the opportunity of a lifetime.
For Berry, that time is now.
After a long career in information technology and communications systems, Berry is on the verge of impacting the world in a way he may have never thought possible as a younger man.
The company he founded in 2011, Lake Oswego-based AirShip Technologies Group, is set to begin production on a solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — a drone called the V2. It has hundreds of pre-orders from customers around the world who plan to use it for commercial, humanitarian, civil and defense purposes.
Two things set this new product by AirShip apart from its competitors: its use of clean (solar) energy, and its extended flight endurance. Just 3-by-3-feet in size and shaped like a stingray, the drone runs on solar power during daytime flight and also is outfitted with hydrogen fuel cells for nighttime flight.
The V2 is programmable for flying and hovering and can stay aloft for as long as five days, compared to other drones on the market that have a flight endurance of just a few hours at best. With camera systems on board, the V2 can monitor and provide real-time information on specific areas of interest.
“Examples are monitoring herds of cattle for symptoms of illness, so livestock can be isolated and treated to prevent further spreading and loss,” Berry said. “Or monitoring our country’s borders to detect and prevent illegal incursion. It also can be used by first responders to execute dangerous or difficult tasks safely and efficiently.”
As co-founder and CEO, Berry sees his leadership of AirShip as a natural extension of a career focused on information systems and technology.
“In general, I’ve had a mixed background — defense, aviation, health care, state and local governments,” said Berry, a Lake Oswego resident who retired earlier this year from his job as chief technology officer for the City of Portland.
Before that, he worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation, Providence Health & Services and Hughes Aircraft. He also spent six years in Saudi Arabia working in hospital systems, logistics applications for the Royal Saudi Air Force and managing computer systems for the country’s international airports.
“The common thread in my career has always been information,” he said. “And if you look at the drone business, or the unmanned aerial business as we call it, it’s all based on a platform that provides information.”
In realms such as search-and-rescue and defense, the V2 drone literally could prove to be a lifesaver. But for Berry, it’s more than that — it’s the culmination of his life’s work, a life lived in the long shadow cast by his famous father.