Stars aligning for Cal UAS effort

The Cal UAS Portal team has announced the addition of several new teammembers to help the effort to make Inyokern Airport the premiere location for integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace.

What started as an effort to be named an FAA test site to bring the commercial unmanned aerial systems industry to the next phase of development has evolved into strong advocacy for furthering RDT&E in this field.

“We have put together such an exceptional team of technical experts and other professionals, and to me that simply validates the merits of Cal UAS for this kind of work,” said Executive Director Eileen Shibley.

“Over the last two years nearly every stakeholder we have approached has embraced this as a tremendous opportunity for economic development and technical advancement in our region, our state and our country. We could not be more excited that many of those same individuals are stepping forward in becoming a part of history in creating a haven for our innovators.”

“I’m excited about the way we are staffing up to meet the needs that are obviously coming down the pike,” said Russ Bates, president of the IWV Airport Board of Directors.

“Whether we get the FAA designation or not, the growth of this endeavor is already occurring and we need people to handle the workload. We feel that these new members of our team will help Eileen and the others who have been working overtime to support this endeavor.”

Among the new teammembers is Jeff Parisse of Parisse Aviation, whose success in numerous fields has kept him on the cutting edge of technology and keenly attuned to the needs of the market.

Parisse will serve as the director of robotic farming — a UAS application that has been identified as one of the first to be rolled out in the industry. He has built numerous prototype unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with necessary sensors for high-tech, precision agriculture.

“I was really first drawn to Cal UAS by Eileen herself,” said Parisse. “She truly stands out from everyone else I’ve seen engaging in this aviation venture. I have been incredibly impressed by her knowledge, passion and optimism.

“Her enthusiasm is infectious, and she has proved herself to be the type of person whose goals are larger than her own vision and who knows how to get things done.”

After a trip to IYK, Parisse immediately developed an interest in joining forces with the Cal UAS team. “All of the people involved in this endeavor are of that same caliber. She has truly assembled a world-class team and I am proud to be a part of it.”

The other new addition to the team is Butch Spoons, who will function as the operational safety lead.

“This is an incredibly important position moving forward, in that the FAA’s primary concern is for safety, and our job at Cal UAS has everything to do with being a part of a bigger team responsible for safely integrating UAS into our national airspace,” said Shibley.

Spoons, a physicist by training, spent the last 10 years of his federal career as the range safety officer at China Lake. He was in that role when the Navy began testing unmanned systems at the high desert installation, and he has played a key role in ushering in the new era of operating unmanned systems in the same airspace as manned systems.

Other key contributors to the Cal UAS endeavor include Scott Seymour, general manager of Inyokern Airport, who serves as a liaison for the FAA and has been a major force in the business development of Cal UAS.

Operations Director Bruce Lowry oversees all technical aspects of Cal UAS operations and provides logistical support for the endeavor.

These deputies lead a cadre of experts who have committed their efforts to the success of Cal UAS

But all players point to Shibley — who has nurtured Cal UAS from concept to reality — as the heart and soul of the endeavor. She has assembled a team of political, military and industry collaborators who make up a highly competitive alliance for UAS development.

“Inyokern Airport has been hosting this kind of technical work for decades. I feel that Cal UAS simply gave us a focal point for gathering the necessary support and resources to continue our role as an important site for aerospace development,” said Seymour.

“What we are doing here offers a solution to so many of the economic and industry challenges that face us, and I am confident that we will continue to assemble the most competent team for developing and delivering those solutions.”

Story First Published: 2013-12-11