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OUR OPINION: UAS teamwork must continue

The organizers of North Dakota’s bid to be a drone test site already have their avionics in one airframe. That’s obvious, because their bid was successful — and in a very competitive field.

Now, here’s the challenge:

They’ve got to keep it that way.

That’s the lesson that comes through a review of columns, editorials and news stories from the five other successful sites around the country. (Excerpts from some of the articles are reprinted on this page.)

While the field of remotely piloted aircraft likely has huge potential, it’s not an industry in which communities can rest on their laurels. That includes Grand Forks and the other five test sites — most of which, if the news stories are any indication, are going hunting for opportunities rather than waiting for companies to come to them.

And as Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, told organizers of Virginia’s successful bid, the time to start looking is now.

“Warner: State must move quickly to land drone windfall,” read the headline to the story in the Virginian Pilot of Norfolk, Va.

Or as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said about New York’s winning bid, “Just being one of the six opens the door, but we still have to walk through.”

Virginians at the meeting with Warner made other good suggestions, too. Here’s one: The test site’s organizers should visit California, where many companies that do drone research are located, but which lost out on its own bid to be a test site.

“Analysis: Losing FAA drone testing bid hurts growing California industry,” a headline in the Long Beach (Calif.) Business Journal confirms.

Another idea: Be fast, be assertive — but above all else, be safe. “We can’t afford to have things occur that shut us down — kill people, damage property,” said a Virginia Tech official who helped organize the state’s bid. “We can’t do that.”

Then there is the Fairbanks Daily News in Fairbanks, Alaska, home of the University of Alaska and a successful test-site bid.

“This is good sustained news for Alaska’s economy,” the newspaper editorialized.

“But drones don’t come without their critics, whose primary concern is about privacy.”

And because public opinion and support remain vital to each test site’s success, privacy is an issue that “local and state leaders should pay close attention to.

“We know the public will,” the Daily News concluded.

— Tom Dennis for the Herald 

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