BEND, OR -- Drones are being tested by PanPacific UAS test range complex at Warm Springs, Prineville, and Madras airports, and now at Bend Municipal, too.
Liz Stalford of the Warm Springs Test Range, says adding Bend Airport to the test zones will greatly facilitate their success for a variety of factors including after-hours events the drones can view. "It was important to be able to offer our clients an airport for a variety of reasons, for maintenance facilities, and often they need a hard surface. And also, if you're here for a type certification for a couple of years, and you want to move your family, Bend is the optimal place to move. You can actually live here."
Stalford says the test sites should go on for several more years and the drones are being tested to determine their viability in carrying passengers, long-range inspection of utilities and wildlife, and fire spotting and monitoring and Stalford says Bend Municipal has several features that make it a great option for PanPacific's clients. "Often, the newer, heavier drones that we're seeing entering the marketplace, need a hard surface, be it a landing pad, or for really tall, for vertical takeoff and lift, or a runway for a fixed-wing operation, so we wanted to be able to give everybody an option."
Because of its expansive terrain and sky, Stalford says Central Oregon is a perfect place to do the testing, especially given how easy it's been to communicate with the participating airports. "We're coordinating closely with airport managers, so that fixed-sing and rotor craft pilots know how this new animal that is coming into their sandbox is going to operate safely, what htey can expect by seeing drone activitiy, so to really make sure that our local traffic knows what to expect and watch out for."
Drones that weigh more than 55 pounds aren't currently cleared to fly in national airspace, and that's why this testing is so important, to determine how these heavier drones will perform in national airspace.