Gleason: How can IYK capture more UAV work?

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

During last week’s naval aviation milestones update by Rear Adm. Mat Winter — former commander of Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake and current program executive officer for NAVAIR’s unmanned aviation and strike weapons — Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason asked how Inyokern Airport can improve its chances of capturing unmanned systems work.

Gleason acknowledged that the Indian Wells Valley is engaged in an effort — spearheaded by IYK and the China Lake Alliance — to be selected in the FAA’s highly competitive process for one of six test sites in the country.

“Let’s say we win — great. Say we don’t win — great. Either way, how can we position IYK to play a support role in yours and anyone else’s efforts for UAV integration and design?” asked Gleason.

He detailed the advantages of using the local site — including the vast swath of restricted airspace, low population density, climatic and geographic diversity, and developing infrastructure.

“You just captured the billboard,” said Winter. “Understanding that value, attributes and relevance IYK brings to the table — what you have to do is make sure that you and every one of your teammates has that same soundbyte and knows how to articulate it.

“The critical thing is going to be hearing that consistency of message from the entire community.” He added that local advocates needed to make sure elected leadership had the same data that supports operations at IYK.

He noted that some technical steps are necessary to securing the approval of the FAA, including acquisition of a certificate authorizing UAVs to operate out of IYK.

“NAVAIR has gained credibility with the FAA on how to safely operate unmanned systems, and you sit side by side with the premiere warfare center of NAVAIR,” said Winter.

He said that with the current cumbersome process of putting an unmanned system in the air, all stakeholders need to engage the FAA in an effort to shape efficient policies and procedures as expeditiously as possible.

The necessity of moving forward in that process is one constant in a sea of future uncertainties.

“If we could go back to 1911 and ask the average person about how to deal with the volume of commercial air traffic, they would not have believed it would even be an issue,” said Winter. “Ten to 15 years from now, our unmanned air traffic is going to rival that.”

Story First Published: 2013-05-29