May 15, 2024
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Ventura County won’t host drone tests


Ventura County’s hopes to be designated a Federal Aviation Administration test site for drones were dealt a setback on Dec. 30 when the FAA picked six winners in the first round of a nationwide competition.

From a pool of 25 applicants, the following were selected: the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport near Utica, North Dakota’s Department of Commerce, a unit of Texas A&M University and Virginia Tech, which will collaborate with Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“For the better part of the 20th Century, California was the global leader for aviation innovation and the home to the majority of the world’s aerospace jobs, so I’m very disappointed the county and the state were not selected for one of these important sites,” Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, said in a statement. “With our highly educated workforce, local Navy bases and our established connections to the aerospace, motion picture, and agriculture industries, Ventura County is a natural location to develop [unmanned aerial systems] technology for civilian use.”

The goal of the program is to set rules for drones and commercial aircraft to share the skies safely. The government wants unmanned aircraft and commercial planes to be able to operate in the same airspace by the end of 2015.

Ventura County had pinned its hopes on a collaboration with Naval Base Ventura County and other institutions. But it also faced intra-state competition from an applicant from Lancaster.

“Obviously we’re disappointed at not being selected as one of the test sites,” Bill Buratto, head of the Ventura County Economic Development Association, said in a statement. “We are proud of the team we assembled and our proposal.”
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, said that while she was disappointed in the decision, she was proud of the broad coalition that came together to support Ventura County’s application.
“Dozens of Ventura County employees, and elected officials locally and across the state, highlighted the unique qualities that make Ventura County a leader in technological innovation,” Brownley said in a statement.  “I have no doubt that Ventura County will continue to play an important role as this process moves forward. There is no doubt that Ventura County and California as a whole are uniquely positioned to benefit from the economic opportunities that the commercialization of UAS technology will bring, while making sure that appropriate public policies are put in place necessary to ensure privacy rights are protected.”
Each of the winning applicants brings a special expertise to bear. The Nevada program will study certification requirements for drone operators and air traffic control procedures, 0while the New York project will study collision avoidance procedures in the Northeast.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told USA Today he expects his agency to meet the deadline of 2015. At stake are some 100,000 jobs and an estimated $82 billion in drone-related new activity in the nation’s air space over the next decade, according to the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Assemblyman Jeff Gorell and VCEDA.]