Guest editorial: Cal UAS skies still open to UAVs

As Californians collectively scratch their heads over the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to leave our country’s historic leader of the aerospace industry out of the process of integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into national airspace, the CalUAS team has been hard at work assessing what this decision means for our future.

Here’s the good news: nothing has changed in terms of our continuing down the path of leveraging the unparalleled resources of our region to propel UAS technology forward. We still have the best airspace, the best ranges, the most exceptional scientific minds and a culture of technological collaboration.

Ultimately, the FAA decision impacts the data collection that will inform how the government agency writes policy to safely and securely move UAVs into the same flight patterns as manned traffic.

This action will be critical to breaking through current limitations of developing unmanned systems. But it is by no means the only research, development, testing and evaluation necessary to take us into the future. So the CalUAS team, headquartered at Inyokern Airport, will continue to work with the industry players who need venues like Inyokern to nurture their technology, and we open our doors to others who are looking for a site that gives them the autonomy to operate in a region that has the natural and technical environment to support them.

Much has been said of the state of California’s lack of investment in the application process and how that affected the FAA’s final decision on where to award test site designations. But here is what the CalUAS team is focused on: we enjoy 100-percent support from our locally elected leadership, from our local military assets and from the residents who embrace this future-focused endeavor and call daily to ask, “How can we help?”

We are poised for success today in part because of your investment. Every member of the CalUAS team has that same resolve to bring to life our vision of how we can make Inyokern a thriving center of private-sector commerce while keeping the United States the world leader in technological advancement.

A special thank you also goes to our industry partners, who have chosen Inyokern based on the merits of our premier testing environment. This is not something we have to prove: we have decades of history where we have demonstrated to the world that we are the global capital for achievement in human flight.

We are grateful for the FAA decision because it has effectively empowered us to emulate that era of achievement, this time for unmanned flight. And in the hands of our great technologists and entrepreneurs, even the sky cannot limit our possibilities for innovation.

In 2014 our ascent will truly begin.

Eileen Shibley, CalUAS executive director

Story First Published: 2014-01-08