FAA drone testing approval sought for Gorge airport

The Klickitat County Economic Development Department submitted a proposal earlier this month that would make the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport in Dallesport a site approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for the testing of the integration of drones into U.S. commercial airspace.

According to Innovate Washington, a state economic development agency, KCEDD is part of a consortium of state, county, and private entities that were involved in the proposal, which would link six other test sites around Washington to create the Pacific Northwest Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center. If approved the flight center, which would include facilities in Yakima, Moses Lake, Grays Harbor, Dallesport, and two other sites in northeast Washington, would be one of six in the U.S. to receive the FAA designation.

The proposal is in response to a push by the FAA to have unmanned aerial vehicles — commonly referred to as UAVs or drones — fully integrated into U.S. airspace by Sept. 30, 2015. The Congressional FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 calls for the creation of these six test sites around the U.S. in order to aid in the transition.

Dave McClure, director of KCEDD, said that although the FAA designation wouldn’t come with any funding, the county is highly interested in making sure the Gorge’s booming UAV business stays that way.

“The UAV industry is a real important economic driver to the county and to the Gorge,” he noted.

Bart Phillips, vice president of economic development for Innovate Washington, said the flight center could end up providing a number of benefits, including “attracting additional aerospace research and development dollars, providing users with cost-effective, safe flight testing facilities, and fostering the development of more companies and high quality jobs in Washington.”

Currently, drones are primarily used for military purposes, but UAV manufacturers are looking to expand beyond defense contracts and use the machines for search and rescue operations, snow pack analysis, agricultural management, and other tasks.

While UAV companies are enthused about the upcoming expansion of drone use, many citizens are concerned about the litany of privacy issues that could arise as more drones take to American skies.

McClure said Dallesport residents needn’t worry about drones buzzing over their roofs if the proposal is approved and noted UAVs will stay “within the footprint of the airport” and that there is “no flight plan [for drones] in or out of the Gorge.” He explained drones that do fly over the airport facilities would be limited to “a very low ceiling” of 500 feet.

As of now, the proposal doesn’t call for the construction of any new buildings on the airport grounds, but McClure said that could eventually be a possibility.

According to an Associated Press report, at least 55 other proposals had been submitted from 37 states and McClure acknowledged that competition for the FAA designation was stiff. He said the FAA is supposed to announce the approved test sites by the end of the year.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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