U.S. Senator Ron Wyden visits Pendleton to discuss the future of the drone industry
PENDLETON, Ore. — The sky’s the limit for the future of drones, especially in Eastern Oregon.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) was in Pendleton on Monday to meet with industry leaders and discuss what he called “the industry of the future”
“You look at what they can do for mountain rescues or precision agriculture,” said Sen. Wyden. “This is the face of a real economic opportunity for rural Oregon.”
— Carissa Lehmkuhl (@CarissaKVEW) July 1, 2019
Defense contractor PAE ISR has been testing in Pendleton since 2016 and moved into a hangar at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in 2018. The Pendleton UAS Test Range (PUR) is an FAA certified partner test range – one of seven of its kind in the country. The 14,000 square mile range encompasses all of northeast Oregon.
Workers at the facility have been testing the ‘Resolute Eagle.” It’s primarily for military operations but other uses are being explored, including agriculture and firefighting.
“We can get above where all the water trucks and water planes are coming in,” said Ken Bisconer, director of operations at PAE ISR. “We can actually get an overview of the whole fire and map it, and we can put that directly into the fire commander’s screen.”
Another major use for drones that’s still in early stages of testing and development – search and rescue. PAE ISR’s technology can stay up in the air for up to 16 hours and use an infrared camera.
“When a child goes missing that first 24 hours is critical,” said Bisconer. “For DJIs, once it starts getting dark they’re done, but when it starts getting dark we’re in.”
For Biconer and Sen .Wyden, the next step in growing the industry is more education, for students as young as junior high age.
“For so often gifted kids basically had to say, ‘I have to go join the military in order to have these kinds of opportunities,'” said Sen. Wyden. “This is now something they can get right here; it’s going to be a textbook case of what a small, rural community ought to do to tap the opportunity.”
Both the senator and Bisconer are currently in talks with Blue Mountain Community College and other local schools to figure out how to implement more robotics or drone-related education into their programs.
“In my heart this is my big thing – to get that education going,” said Bisconer.