Beaufort-based XRDi to pair with Jabil to manufacture multi-fuel engines

A small, high-tech Beaufort business that makes multi-fuel engines compatible for use in unmanned drones is nearing an agreement to have an international manufacturer produce its technology.

Jabil, which has more than 60 plants in 33 countries, is based outside of Tampa, Fla., according to the company's website. It manufactures a variety of machines, including defense and aerospace equipment.

Officials with XRDi, based in the Beaufort Industrial Village, would not say if its production would be moved out of the county.

"The only thing that has been put out there that I'm cleared to say ... is that Jabil is going to be manufacturing our engines," said Forrest Bowen, one of XRDi's owners.

XRDi was founded in about 2001 and has about 20 employees, Bowen said. Founder and chief technology officer Andy Allen, who has several patents for multi-fuel engines, has led development of its products.

"We're a research and development house, and we've developed a technology that the government needs badly on a worldwide basis," owner Merritt Patterson said.

Patterson said his company is an example of the type of small high-tech companies scattered throughout Beaufort County that most residents know little about.

Bowen said a confidentially agreement prevents him from giving out further information about the relationship with Jabil, but he expects an announcement will be made by summer.

XRDi's engines are lightweight and quiet -- ideal for use by the military for unmanned drones because they don't require expensive fuels, Bowen said.

"With our engines you can burn any fuel you have in the theater, and you can even mix it up if you want," he said.

Jabil's defense-related manufacturing includes communications devices and electronics systems for unmanned aircraft.

Its 2012 fiscal-year revenue was about $17.2 billion, according to its website. It has 165,000 employees.

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