Orlando’s modeling, simulation and training focused defense cluster provides a sustainable pipeline of business opportunities for technology companies in the region, especially those focused on entertainment and game development.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the leisure and hospitality industry is affecting communities throughout the world. It’s no secret Orlando—a top tourism destination that welcomed a record 75 million visitors in 2019—is one of the hardest effected. With this crisis comes an abundance of new opportunity, and Orlando companies quickly adapted and innovated. Many contractors that serve the region’s attractions industry turned to one of Orlando’s best kept secrets: the simulation and defense cluster anchored by Central Florida Research Park. 

“Before COVID-19, our business was 80 percent commercial and 20 percent military contracts,” says Brandon Naids, CEO of Orlando based Talon Simulations. “Since the pandemic, we’ve pivoted back to focusing on defense work.” The company recently applied for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for a project with the Air Force and continues to pursue defense contracts.

While students at the University of Central Florida, Brandon and his business partner founded Talon Simulations after the positive feedback they received on their prototype virtual reality flight simulator developed for their engineering senior design project.  These projects are supported and funded by companies from both the local business and defense communities, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Duke Energy and the success of Talon’s project led to subsequent funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“Being connected in the Orlando community is helpful in so many ways,” relates Brandon. Since its inception, Talon has partnered with numerous local companies on projects. For one major project, Talon collaborated with Orlando based companies Skyline Attractions and Ashland Technologies to assist Dave & Busters with building and maintaining 150 four seat VR simulator attractions at D&B locations around the country.  The success of this project led Talon to partner with local companies Code Firm and Cyber Dream to develop a single seat VR simulator for smaller venues. The company sponsored a virtual reality (VR) game development senior project at Full Sail University as well as Orange Technical College’s game jam, where students help collaborate to create game content that integrates with their motion simulator platform.

Being connected in the Orlando community is helpful in so many ways.

Brandon Naids, CEO of Talon Simulations
VR ride game developed by Talon Simulations for Dave & Busters. Photo credit: Dave & Busters.

“Building games is a long and risky business. You just can’t predict how popular the game will be and if it will make money,” says Cyber Dream’s CEO Sean Pinnock in a LinkedIn article by Unity’s Head of Government Solutions, John Cunningham. “So, it helps to have some revenue coming in the door to help subsidize our costs. We found that there are many companies in the simulation and defense community here in Orlando that need our game developers’ skillsets to build virtual and augmented training applications. We’re able to provide services to those companies when they need special skills that they don’t have in house or just to extend their team’s capabilities temporarily. This is a real win-win for both organizations.”

We found that there are many companies in the simulation and defense community here in Orlando that need our game developers’ skillsets to build virtual and augmented training applications.

Sean Pinnock, CEO of Cyber Dream

Although Brandon will miss the face-to-face interactions that take place in Orlando every November during the county’s largest simulation conference, I/ITSEC, he plans to meet with decision makers for support of his SBIR research grant at this year’s virtual conference. He feels confident the core competency of Talon’s business model combined with connections to the Orlando region’s simulation community will give the company a leg up on the competition.

Brandon Naids, CEO of Talon Simulations, and team at I/ITSEC trade show in Orlando.