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Panama City Beach-based TechFarms startup Dragonair Aviation lands in finals of Boeing competition


On the Fly

A Northwest Florida team lands in the finals of a Boeing competition.

GoFly, an international human flight competition, has named Panama City Beach-based TechFarms startup Dragonair Aviation one of five finalists for its $1-million grand prize. Sponsored by Boeing, the GoFly challenge calls on inventors to design and construct a personal aircraft. Dragonair Aviation was one of more than 800 teams that entered the international competition.

Founded by aeronautical engineers Mariah Cain, Jeff Elkins and Ray Brandes, Dragonair won a spot in the finals with its AirBoard 2.0, a battery-powered, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The Dragonair team has been working on the AirBoard at TechFarms for about three years, Cain says.

Dragonair and the four other finalists will have 10 months to finalize their designs. The final demonstration of aircrafts will take place during a televised event in February 2020.

In addition to Dragonair, the international field of finalists includes Team Aeroxo (Russia and Latvia), Team Silverwing Personal Flight (Netherlands), Team Texas A&M Harmony (U.S.) and Team Trek Aerospace (U.S.). Each team will take home at least $50,000.


  • Gulf Power, a newly acquired division of Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy, plans to build a solar energy center on 697 acres in Jackson County. The solar farm is expected to generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.


  • Pensacola-based Sacred Heart Health System has opened its four-story Studer Family Children’s Hospital. The $85-million facility has 126 beds and is the largest children’s hospital in Northwest Florida. The Pensacola-based Bear Family Foundation has donated $1.75 million to the hospital, the largest gift in the Bear Family Foundation's 17-year history.
  • Sacred Heart announced its oncology unit at the hospital will be named the Bear Family Foundation Pediatric Oncology Center for Hope. The 144-bed Bay Medical Sacred Heart in Panama City — damaged by Hurricane Michael last year — has reopened. Repairs cost $47 million. Earlier this year Sacred Heart Health System took over operational control of the Panama City hospital from Ardent Health Services.


  • Tallahassee-based RB Oppenheim Associates has acquired Lyons Digital Media, a provider of web development, website hosting, graphics and content management. Lyons founder Jonathan Lyons is joining Oppenheim Associates as the digital services director.


  • The Jackson County Commission has secured a $20-million line of credit from Regions Capital Advantage to pay for disaster-related costs and reconstruction of facilities damaged by Hurricane Michael.


  • Germany-based discount grocery store chain Aldi plans to build a store on two acres in West Pensacola it purchased for $1.35 million.


  • Pensacola Sports has asked Escambia County commissioners for $1.4 million a year in tourist development tax money over the next 30 years to build a $37-million indoor sports complex in downtown Pensacola. Pensacola Sports President Ray Palmer expects the proposed building complex will be about 50,000 square feet and designed so it could be expanded. Pensacola developers and philanthropists Quint and Rishy Studer have committed to donate eight acres of the former Emerald Coast Utility Authority downtown sewage treatment property for the complex.
  • The $38-million Panama City Beach Sports Complex is on schedule to open in early July. The 160-acre complex will be home to 13 athletic fields, nine of which will have artificial turf. City officials say the sports complex is projected to generate some 57,000 room-nights annually in area lodgings.


  • Skyborne Technology and Unmanned Systems, a manufacturer of unmanned systems and drones, has purchased Costin Airport in Port St. Joe for an undisclosed sum. The airport will be used by the partnership for flight operations, manufacturing and pilot training in unmanned systems, company executives say.


  • Southern Living magazine has ranked Destin No. 2 in its list of “The South’s Best Beach Towns for 2019.” In addition to Destin, Panama City also made the list at No. 3.


  • Work to upgrade the Georgia & Florida Railway line through Perry is scheduled to begin later this summer. The $8.6-million project is funded by a federal grant awarded to Taylor County in 2017.



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