The owners of Consolidated Technologies, Inc., a local engineering and manufacturing firm, seem to have no qualms about the fact that the products they make are destined to be destroyed immediately after purchase.
The minority-owned firm has a $650,000 contract to build 15 boats for Navy pilots to use for target practice. The first completed target drone boat will be unveiled today at the company's facilities in Upper Marlboro.
Dudley Gill, the company's president, said the 18-foot craft looks like "a water-ski boat" until, that is, the Naval Air Command gets hold of it. After the pilots have shot the vessel full of lead, flotation in the front of the boat keeps it above water until its remote control electronic equipment can be removed. Once that equipment is salvaged, the flotation is removed and the boat sinks.
Gill says the company won the contract to build the boats, which will be used by the Naval Air Command at its Patuxent facility on the Chesapeake Bay, through a competitive bidding process in September, 1979. Consolidated Technologies had set up shop in the spring of that year.
"The contract was won through competitive bidding," said Gill. "It was not part of the government set-aside program. I feel generally proud because we had to overcome several hurdles, like financing.
"Because we did not have a track record, we had to develop a facility, spend quite a bit of money to get our plants ready . . . That was expensive. We had to get funding from a bank; that was incredibly difficult. You know, banks just do not lend money to minorities."
The company obtained $100,000 as operating capital from the Industrial Bank of Washington. Consolidated Technologies is family-owned, with Gill's sister, Patricia Hampton, acting as vice president, and his brother, Gregory, as treasurer.
Gill also points to the inspection system set up at the plant to meet government quality control standards. The system enables the company to trace the sources of raw materials, such as the fiberglass used to make the boats' hulls, in the event of defects or other problems.
Gill said the Navy gives the firm periodic payments after checking its progress.
"They come out every two weeks and actually measure our physical accomplishments," he said. "If they see we have made a hull, part of a deck and several hatches and installed several engines, these activities are assigned a particular value . . . This is one of the first contracts handled this way, so it's a learning experience for them also."
Gill said the remaining 14 boats are in various stages of completion and should be finished in the next three months.