Green Valley, Arizona
High-performance unmanned vehicles for air and water
While Hydronalix has gone through a series of growth spurts since its 2009 founding, Mulligan says one constant within the company has been a continuous investment in technology.
"Overall, we've invested heavily in technology," Mulligan says. "When we started it, we put $1 million cash, primarily to develop technology. About 15 to 20 percent of our business comes from the SBIR program, which funds for all of the R&D." SBIR, which stands for Small Business Innovation Research, is a government program run through the U.S. Small Business Administration agency.
Hydronalix's team members work in a number of fields including engineering, technical trades, production, and administration. Mulligan and other members of the company's executive team have backgrounds in commercial and military leadership.
Because of its specialized focus, Mulligan says Hydronalix largely has the field to itself -- particularly on the domestic front. The company's closest competitors, he notes, are in Portugal and China.
Since Hydronalix employs professionals from a range of backgrounds, Mulligan says the company is able to provide a comprehensive package for the unmanned vehicles it manufactures. "We're very vertically integrated. We actually design our systems from the ground up," Mulligan says. "We manufacture using a domestic or European supply chain. We also train operators and perform missions for people. We're big on training, and we're big on mission support as well. I think the differentiator for us is we do the entire design."
To date, Hydronalix has shipped out about 2,000 air and water systems to first responders tending to a range of emergencies and natural disasters -- from water rescues to forest firefighters.
Combined, Mulligan said Hydronalix's collective fleet of vehicles has performed between two and two-and-a-half rescues per day, on average.
"We calculated that based on what people tell us," Mulligan says. "They will tell you, over the course of the year, how many have taken place. Evidently, every [vehicle] will eventually save someone at least once."
Challenges: As Hydronalix continues to scale up, the company's headcount is poised to follow the same trajectory. But Mulligan says labor has been a challenge in recent years, particularly for some of the specialized positions. "Being able to hire really good engineers has been a challenge," he continues. "We're hiring engineers right out of school, trying to match our growth."
Opportunities: In the short-term, Mulligan says demand for Hydronalix's customized air and water vehicles continues to grow -- particularly in some of the specialized sectors within the U.S. government. "We're looking to increase the volume of boats for the Navy," he says. "We're also working with Homeland Security."
Outside the U.S., Mulligan says there is untapped potential where the company is only starting to gain traction. "Our export sales have also been growing," he adds. "They grew 50 percent last year."
Needs: Because of the intricate nature of its products, Mulligan says Hydronalix has relationships with a number of suppliers, which has resulted in bottlenecks since the pandemic’s onset. While there is hope the future is on the upswing, Mulligan adamantly states Hydronalix's supply chain network still is not on par with pre-pandemic levels as the second quarter of 2023 gets underway. "We’re looking for more improvements in the supply chain," he says. "We still have a pretty unstable supply chain. It's improved in the last six months."
Additionally, Mulligan says Hydronalix is in the midst of seeking out more production space to keep pace with demand for the company's product. He adds that the company is looking to forge additional relationships with secondary suppliers as well.