UAV industry reps discuss the vehicles’ future in Fairbanks

Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the north is the focus of meetings in Fairbanks this week. The University of Alaska Fairbanks “Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Integration” is hosting industry representatives to talk about UAV based operations in Alaska and the Arctic.

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“It’s everything from wildlife monitoring to looking at sea ice, infrastructure monitoring, law enforcement support, such as search and rescue, and a bunch of other Alaska focused issues,” Center Director Cathy Cahill said.

Cahill said unmanned aircraft opportunities are growing as the technology is well suited to Alaska and the Arctic.

“Long distances, to beyond the visual line of sight, the monitoring of wildlife. So there’s definitely been an uptick in business,” Cahill said.

The UAF-based center coordinates with entities in Oregon and Hawaii to operate the Pan-Pacific Test Range Complex, one of seven sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration nationwide to test integration of UAV’s into conventional air space. Cahill said the Alaska administered range group recently expanded to include mid-west locations.

”What we found is people don’t want to go test their unmanned aircraft more than days drive from where they’re based,” Cahill said. “So by spreading out, we can bring more people into the Pan-Pacific fold and that helps fund some of the work here in Alaska.”

This week’s UAV meetings are happening at the Wedgewood Resort in Fairbanks, Wednesday through Friday.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.