Drone Demo at Alamo Airport
The hottest things in aeronautics at present aren’t stealth bombers, advanced jet fighters or bigger jumbo airliners. The hottest things are drones, more properly known as UAS, or unmanned aerial systems.
A demonstration of some of these drones was given at the Alamo Airport Nov. 11 by Don Bintz with the Sandstorm Unmanned Aerial System Inc. Bintz, a retired Air Force pilot from Wisconsin, has established an outpost of the company in Henderson, Nevada. But he plans to use Alamo as a center for research, development and training on the cutting edge of technology.
It is equally important to know that pilots of the unmanned systems do have to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, a part 61 certificate, and there are specific rules and guidelines for commercial drones use and amateur use. Drones must also have “aircraft markings” (an ID number that can be traced back to the owner).
Commercial drones cannot be operated at night unless equipped with lights that are visible for three miles. Drones are to fly no higher than 400 feet in commercial use unless having to go over a structure that tall. You have to avoid flying in populated areas and cannot exceed 100 mph.
Rules for amateur uses of drones prohibit flying where there is a “a reasonable expectation of privacy, ” like someone’s backyard, other than your own. Also amateur drones are prohibited from flying over power stations, and prisons, or within five miles of an airport without permission.
Amateur drones are also strong advised not to interfere with wildfire suppression aircraft.
Bintz’s company has been one of the leaders in the UAS industry since it was first established in 2003.
A large crowd was on hand Saturday morning to watch the flight crews demonstrate six or seven planes and one or two of the spider-like helicopter drones.
At times, some of the kids in attendance were even given a try at the stick of the aircraft.
The main demonstration involved “Sandstorm,” a 15-foot wingspan drone, available with either gasoline or battery power. Remotely piloted, it can be flown from ground control stations that are be close by, but could also be hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from the actual flight location.
Engineer Cameron Berg said Alamo is going to be the base of operations for Sandstorm in Nevada. Another base for the company is in Antigo, Wisconsin. “It’s possible,” he said, “we might someday even have a staff person living in Alamo.”
Bintz said the door is wide open for drones to do a number of things, good for commercial and civilian uses, survey work, videography, construction, law enforcement, search and rescue, even agriculture uses. “We haven’t come up with all of them yet.”
Nevada is the only state designated presently by the FFA as an unmanned aerial system test site, although other places are making application
There is a three-fold plan for Alamo, Bintz said. “Overhead aerial photography, construction and agriculture. It’s going to take a coordinated effort. Once the success of the systems are proved, the bottom line will be: it’s hard to argue with success.”
He added that Alamo is a good place for research and development because it is “out away from the crowd, yet still convenient and easy to work. The air space is good, and you can get everything done that you need to do.”
— Dave Maxwell