Meet the Luminati Aerospace R&D team

Luminati's chief designer, Barnaby Wainfan, is best known for 1993's Wainfan Facetmobile.

Luminati Aerospace shed light on its top management this week, trotting out the startup’s top design and science officers before the Riverhead town board and local residents.

The firm, which has proposed building communication drones for a major – but so far unnamed – technology client, is negotiating an agreement to manage the largest runway at the former Grumman test facility at Calverton. The company said it plans to invest an initial $50 million at the site and hire at least 40 to ramp up operations.

We’ve introduced you to Luminati CEO Daniel Preston, who started college at age 12 and holds more than 100 patents, including designs for U.S. military parachutes and other flying devices, before turning to the family’s cacao business.


Barnaby Wainfan

In tow Wednesday was chief designer Barnaby Wainfan, a Northrop Grumman veteran who has designed more than 20 aircraft, including the Wainfan Facetmobile, an early-1990s prop-driven craft that used its unique flat-paneled fuselage design to fly without wings.

Also on hand: Anthony Calise, the company’s chief scientist, who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and helped design Raytheon’s Patriot missile system, the renowned “Scud Buster” of the first Gulf War. Calise is considered an expert in aircraft remote control and guidance.

Anthony Calise

Anthony Calise

Earlier this month, Luminati acquired the assets of a former skydiving school at Calverton and unveiled plans for the drone operation, which includes renting the town-owned 10,000-foot runway at the site. The firm has also proposed buying a 7,000-foot strip at the facility.

In an earlier appearance before the town board, Preston said his firm would spend two years or more in research and development before testing and flying drones at the site. Town Supervisor Sean Walter has described the craft as long-flying, solar-powered vehicles that would beam communication signals back to Earth, leading to speculation that Luminati’s client is Facebook or Google, which are both experimenting in that space.

While Luminati’s plan has been generally well-received by local residents – including those, like Walter, who dream of the return of Long Island’s aerospace prowess – a few couldn’t see the future beyond the tarmac.

Their biggest complaint: The town should charge more than the proposed $31,000-a-year rental fee for the runway.

“There were other states that were going to pay them to come,” Walter retorted.

The board is schedule to vote on the plan early next month.