- Tech Insights
Stewart Hamel built SkyRunner from concept to growth-stage startup and created an organization that mirrors his driven persona. At once a fiercely independent innovator and an open-minded listener, Stewart formed an energetic, pioneering, and market-driven team to manufacture the world’s only flying UTV (Utility Transport Vehicle). SkyRunner is more than a single product; it is a design philosophy and a state of mind that informs all corporate strategies and operations.
Stewart designed the SkyRunner MK 3.2 without compromise, perfected it through the wisdom of crowds, and built it with tenacity and grit. Originally designed to launch epic adventures with his children, SkyRunner evolved into much more as Stewart listened to elite Special Operators, Ranchers, Border Patrol officials, Fish and Wildlife officers, and Smokejumpers—all of whom provided invaluable input, ideas, and concepts that Stewart adapted into the MK 3.2. Then he persisted through Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification, supply chain complications, patent filings, and competitor challenges while building lean manufacturing processes from the ground up. “Aligning with key partners helped us breakthrough over and over,” says Stewart. “Whenever we ran into particularly tough obstacles, we looked for organizations who had mastered similar issues, aligned interests, and listened carefully to their advice.”
Hamel has always been data-centric. An analyst by trade, he perpetually mines leads, pores over engagement strategy, and combs through sales data to determine customer needs and spot market trends early. The SkyRunner marketing team transforms those data-driven insights into compelling content across multiple platforms. Stewart observes that, “Digital technologies inform the functionality of the vehicle. As an inherently visual and visceral enterprise, the SkyRunner product line is ideally suited for video and rich media content marketing.”
"Hamel has always been data-centric. A student of experimental and behavioral economics, Stewart relentlessly runs field experiments to better understand what end users want, why they want it, and how to optimally meet those needs."
SkyRunner represents the safest category of aircraft globally (powered parafoil), but the MK 3.2 took things a step farther by crafting a 4130 Chromoly tube frame around the occupants. The entire frame is hand-built by an incredibly sophisticated engineering and manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas. “We selected advanced coil-over Fox Racing shocks for the landing gear to provide impressive off-road landing and takeoff capabilities. We’ve even tested performance by taking off at 10,000 feet density altitude in the Rocky Mountains. Our landing area was an unimproved pasture, and touching down on the Fox Shocks, even with the increased groundspeed of high-altitude landings, the ride was remarkably smooth,” explains Stewart.
The SkyRunner MK 3.2 provides a safe, stable, certified platform to integrate and employ emerging technology. The tech the company is most excited about right now comes from their partners at Collins Aerospace. “We are integrating their Piccolo flight management system to make the MK 3.2 optionally manned. We’ve also installed their TASE-400 electro optical / infrared sensor to provide incredible visibility and streaming full motion video. With several more projects in the pipeline, keep your eyes on SkyRunner for more exciting applications.”
According to Stewart, SkyRunner inaugurated am entirely new market segment; the SkyRunner team loves to learn from competitors trying to solve the same problems. “We’re always questioning, learning, field-testing, and perfecting the aircraft and our company. Knowing that someone else is doing the same drives us forward. Always advancing.”
SkyRunner recently named retired USAF Colonel Michael Jensen as Chief Strategy Officer to spearhead an aggressive Global Growth Strategy through strategic international partnerships. The company is closely watching possible FAA rule changes that may permit certain Special Light-Sport Aircraft in commercial applications. This opens up a world of potential use cases in tourism, sightseeing, pipeline security and maintenance, and more. “We also have an exciting new initiative to shoot flights, footage, and locations that we visit around the world for purposes of educating customers and enterprise clients what kinds of missions and activities are enabled with this platform. Look for the first “episode” of that content coming this month,” says Stewart. IE
Chief Executive Officer of SkyRunner, LLC
SkyRunner, LLC is a privately held aircraft manufacturing company headquartered in Shreveport, LA, USA. SkyRunner designs & produces the MK 3.2, a special light sport aircraft. SkyRunner earned S-LSA FAA certification June 2016, and full approval as a two occupant aircraft July 2017. SkyRunner has quickly become one of the fastest growing aircraft manufactures in the United States in class & category.