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drone Look, it’s a — drone?

Kauai selected as test flight site, but deal not done yet

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 1:30 am | Updated: 12:02 pm, Wed Jan 8, 2014.

LIHUE — Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility and the island of Niihau have been selected by the University of Alaska Fairbanks as one of 13 range sites for future drone research and testing.

However, PMRF spokesman Stefan Alford said Tuesday there is no final commitment by the base.

“There’s not an agreement in place,” he said.

“They are exploring the possibility of PMRF because of our existing infrastructure, lots of air space with established safeguards, and no privacy concern impacts on the community (test flights would be over water only),” he wrote in an email.

But if one comes together, Kauai residents and visitors could see drones ranging in size from 2.5 pounds to “fairly large.” If it happens, the drones are expected to have little impact on civil aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced six official unmanned aircraft system test site operators across the country. The Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex will be managed by UAF and include key partners in Hawaii and Oregon, according to a release.

Complex director Ro Bailey confirmed the Hawaii locations Monday and said Niihau Ranch initiated the conversation with UAF two years ago. Niihau Ranch could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Pan-Pacific complex will allow unmanned aircraft manufacturers and potential users the ability to test their equipment in the Arctic, the tropics and arid environments, according to UAF.

As the premier test and training range in the Pacific, Alford said PMRF receives many inquiries from a variety of potential customers.

“PMRF could be considered an ideal location for UAS operations because aircraft can depart this field and enter controlled military airspace with little risk and impact to civil aviation,” he said.

Bailey said that while UAF has selected the three Hawaii locations, those locations could opt not to participate.

“We put the sites into the application. The application was accepted,” she said.

“As far as we know all of the sites were accepted.”

Operations of the test range complex are slated to begin by the middle of this year, according to UAF.

One of the big issues for PMRF, according to Alford, is that the base tries to get its range schedule confirmed a year in advance.

As of now, there is no memorandum of understanding and drone testing with AUF is not on PMRF’s schedule, he said.

Bailey and her team were in Honolulu Monday to discuss the matter with Hawaii team members. She also spoke with the Kauai Mayor’s Office.

“We let them know that we and others on Kauai are very interested in more details as to how Kauai, Niihau and PMRF may be involved in the project, and they made a commitment to keep us and the general public informed as more details become available,” county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka wrote in an email.

Bailey said PMRF appeals to UAF because of its infrastructure, experienced staff and large amount of restricted airspace.

“They’re knowledgeable and can get up to speed fairly quickly,” she said of the base.

Bailey did not have an estimate of how many unmanned aircraft flights may occur in the state annually, but said the drones will range in size from 2.5 pounds to “fairly large.” And while some operations may be interstate, the majority will be kept to one specific location, she said.

Bailey said the test site is a complex of individual ranges, including six in Alaska, four in Oregon and three in Hawaii. In addition to PMRF and Niihau, the Pohakuloa Training Area on Big Island was selected, she said.

The Pan-Pacific complex has a strong safety and data collection team in place and partners in all three states hope significant business, both in the form of site users and entrepreneurs seeking to support test site operations, will follow, the release states.

“There are some really huge opportunities in terms of jobs coming to the area and in terms of business work,” Bailey said, adding “Alaska, Oregon and Hawaii offer exceptional climatic and geographic diversity, lightly populated airspace and overwater test opportunities that can support the majority of FAA needs.”

• Chris D’Angelo, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

© 2015 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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11 comments:

  • Eagle 6 posted at 9:13 pm on Sat, Jan 11, 2014.

    Eagle 6 Posts: 1152

    Since we're protecting Canada, UA Fairbanks should test the Drones in the vast empty of Canada. And no I'm not serious. I think the Drones, unless, used for nations defense, in a time of war, have zero reasons to gain any kind of foothold in the US.

     
  • Judie posted at 12:09 pm on Sat, Jan 11, 2014.

    Judie Posts: 2

    OMG, I can't believe this! Did anyone ask those of us who live here? I think before you start speaking for this, Beth, you better talk to more than people who promote business no matter what! I urge everyone to start screaming about this - let them promote their spy stuff somewhere else. We need this on the ballot before it happens! And like "truthislaw" noted, who is UAF to select Kauai?

     
  • notahippi posted at 10:43 pm on Fri, Jan 10, 2014.

    notahippi Posts: 479

    This all just makes me sick.....

     
  • WestKauai posted at 3:26 pm on Thu, Jan 9, 2014.

    WestKauai Posts: 219

    PMRF civilians have been flying target drones on the range for the past 40 years.

     
  • truthislaw posted at 4:45 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    truthislaw Posts: 1011

    "have been selected by the University of Alaska Fairbanks"
    Since when does another state or a university no less, just decide Kauai is the place they will set up operations?

    I especially took notice of: the drones are expected to have little impact on civil aviation.
    Little impact?

     
  • dawg2000 posted at 1:42 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    dawg2000 Posts: 166

    So take the pilot out of an aircraft and it becomes evil and deadly? Interesting thought process...

     
  • Tiki808 posted at 12:50 pm on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    Tiki808 Posts: 833

    We need Bernard Carvalho Jr. to intervene in the community for these type of issues in the community?

    Never heard of it. Is it used for spying Russians? It can be easily shot down a few miles away. Using a missile!

     
  • realitychick posted at 11:25 am on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    realitychick Posts: 218

    Yes, drones have already been spotted on Kauai. Evidently, it's time to step up the program. First step is to deceive people into thinking that drones will benefit us somehow. Nothing could be further from the truth.

     
  • realitychick posted at 9:02 am on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    realitychick Posts: 218

    Are you kidding me??? Drones??? Can't kill us fast enough with pesticides??? This is a really bad idea. Our local leaders have no idea who and what they are dealing with here.

     
  • UncleAina posted at 8:10 am on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    UncleAina Posts: 585

    I've seen an MQ-9 Reaper (similar to a Predator) drone landing at PMRF with my own eyes - and this was two years ago. So drones are already here. This new program will have more drones flying around Kauai airspace and although this technology is something that's coming like it or not, I'd prefer not to be a guinea pig.
    As for the promise of "jobs" - I have a hard time believing that PMRF will have civilians flying drones based out of a Navy facility where lots of top secret stuff goes on..

     
  • mikeperius posted at 7:08 am on Wed, Jan 8, 2014.

    mikeperius Posts: 29

    kauai has become the beta testing site for evil.

     

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