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Navy: Drone testing at Hawaii site not a certainty

Jan. 8, 2014 - 05:03PM   |  
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LIHUE, HAWAII — Drone testing at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai is not a certainty even though the base is exploring the possibility with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Navy officials in Hawaii said.

The Garden Island reported Wednesday that base spokesman Stefan Alford says there’s no final commitment from the base.

“There’s not an agreement in place,” Alford said. “They are exploring the possibility of (the facility) because of our existing infrastructure, lots of air space with established safeguards and no privacy concern impacts on the community.”

The flights would be over water, Alford said.

The university was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration to manage one of six test site operations across the country. The operators will research the requirements necessary to safely integrate drones, or unmanned aircraft systems, into U.S. airspace.

The plan managed by the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration at the University of Alaska Fairbanks includes proposed test sites in Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon. Leaders in Alaska praise the testing as good for the university and good for economic activity in the state.

Ro Bailey, director of the Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aerial System Test Range Complex, said the Kauai base could be an ideal location to test drones because aircraft can enter controlled military airspace with little risk or disruption to civil aviation.

Bailey said possible testing is also being explored on the Hawaiian island of Niihau. Bailey said Niihau Ranch approached the complex about the possibility two years ago, Bailey said.

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