A former Jamaican child prodigy, now based in the United States, is offering the island breakthrough technology to help protect its borders from gun, drugs, and human traffickers and provide low-cost clean energy that he hopes will benefit the poor especially.
Dwight Thanos Smith, who says he is determined to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to giving back to his country in adulthood, became the wind beneath Mike Henry’s wings when he campaigned for the development of an elusive international airport at Vernamfield, Clarendon.
Smith — son of a famous father, retired Sergeant Major George “Bumpy” Smith of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) — describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur”, watched as other countries benefited from his technological wizardry and asked himself: Why not Jamaica?
One such place is the US city of Brownsville, Texas, on the border with Mexico. Smith’s company, Paragon VTOL Aerospace where he is chief visionary officer and lead inventor, is a leader in vertical take-off and landing technology (VTOL) and is putting the city at the centre of development of the technology.
The project is being developed through partnerships with easily recognisable companies like Rolls Royce, S&C Electric, ARUP, Texas Southmost College; the City of Brownsville, and Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
In addition, Smith recently established a partnership with Virginia Union, a historically black college and university (HBCU), led by Dr Hakim Lucas to create Paragon Universe Research and Technology Innovation Center which will create sustainable jobs within the Paragon universe and beyond. Smith plans to extend the HBCU collaboration to The University of the West Indies.
“Last year, Paragon VTOL Aerospace announced that we are building our manufacturing hub in Brownsville’s industrial park from where we hope to pioneer an urban air taxi movement in the Rio Grande Valley,” Smith said.
He has pioneered technologies with global reach in the areas of disposal beverage carriers for fast food restaurants; divergent chemicals to increase oil well performance; take-off and landing technology including drones, low-speed electric cars, microgrid electricity for clean energy, and soon to come, flying cars to be used as taxis.
Paragon has established worldwide partnerships across the various retail and technology buildouts on four continents, 130 cities, 29 countries, 39 US states, and more than 150 academic, health care, and government institutions, he said. The total retail foot traffic touches more than four billion people per year for his secured partnerships and agreement to incorporate the Paragon business offerings into existing physical assets for a small fraction per dollar invested.
About Brownsville, to which he relocated from California, Smith said it was one of the poorest cities in the state of Texas, but the people were akin to Jamaicans — hard-working with strong family values. His goal is to replicate a project in which Paragon is building out a smart microgrid to power Brownville’s international airport and eventually the entire city.
Arguing that Jamaicans are overpaying for energy, he told the Jamaica Observer, “With our smart microgrid the island could break its heavy reliance on fossil fuel-based energy and provide cheaper, cleaner energy, beginning with the parish of St Catherine and beyond.”
“I am just as excited about our planned collaboration between Jamaica and Brownsville to provide the JDF with the ability to secure both the US and Jamaican borders, using manned and unmanned drones to detect drugs, gun, and human trafficking while generating jobs,” Smith added.
For that project, Paragon is working with top legal consultants Milton Samuda and Ambassador Tony Hylton who represent the local firm Samuda Johnson and serve as legal counsel and business strategist to Paragon Universe.
Smith was born at Up Park Camp, headquarters of the JDF, to George and Evadney Smith nee Dyer, the youngest of four children — the others being sisters Kareen and Terika and brother Morvin.
“At seven years old I built my first glider aircraft in Kingston and flew it around the neighbourhood. As a teenager at high school in the US, I flew single- and dual-propeller aircraft. My dream then was to build flying cars, somewhat akin to the ones seen in the cartoon Jetsons that I used to watch on TV. That dream is still alive,” he explained.
Smith disclosed that the proposed Vernamfield airport project that was spearheaded by the former Transport Minister Mike Henry did not work because of “bureaucracy and red tape”. He also noted that for the same reason nothing came of his demonstration of a package delivery — a pint of Red Stripe beer — from a remote location by drone at Denbigh, Clarendon, in 2019.
“I am not daunted because I have a vision for helping to make a better Jamaica and I will continue to pursue it,” he said.