Utah in running for unmanned aircraft research

It sounds like something out of “Star Wars” or some other science fiction tome, but it’s a reality and could be coming to Utah. The state might get a different kind of Christmas present this year — a chance to have test sites for the development of unmanned aerial systems. Officials anticipate the announcement will be made by the end of the year.

“This is as important as the day in North Carolina at Kitty Hawk when the Wright Brothers changed the face of aviation,” said Wayne Dornan, dean of the College of Aviation and Public Services at UVU. UVU is the coordinating university to create the application for the project.

State officials partnered with UVU, BYU, the University of Utah, Utah State University and Weber State University. State researchers described their expertise in unmanned aerial systems technology and said it gives a competitive edge.

Keep your fingers crossed and your hands on the controllers of the remotely controlled aircraft. Sometimes called drones, sometimes used for spying, these aircraft also have more down to earth uses, even though they are in the atmosphere.

If a forest fire breaks out, it can take significant time to gather the personnel and equipment necessary, and then wait for a helicopter. With the UAS’s, it takes only minutes for a compact unmanned vehicle to get into the sky and assess the scene.

“We can do an initial survey of the fire,” Dornan said. It can do an analysis of the moisture and the wind direction and speed.

“It can determine the trajectory,” he said. “They can predict the way the fire will move. It can give some real good information how to fight this fire.”

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