City to launch drone pilot training

February 25, 2014 • Local News

A private training site at the Roswell International Air Center plans to launch a new program to begin training pilots to fly government and law en[auth] forcement drones.

Officials are expected to announce Friday the opening of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems pilot training center at MISTIC, a special 2,500-acre compound at the airport.

Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Director John Mulcahy touted the importance of grabbing a piece of the UAS market earlier this month.

Airports in other cities were selected as drone bases to experiment with new designs. But Roswell has an opportunity to become a center to provide pilot training, maintenance and payload configuration for the aircraft, Mulcahy said.

“I think Roswell has an extraordinary opportunity to be that place for all those three things,” Mulcahy said. “The opportunity for Roswell is real. It’s a very important economic factor.”

The center’s primary goal is to provide pilots to fly three types of drones: the SkyRanger, a small drone for industrial inspections and law enforcement surveillance; the SandShark, used for military and government agencies; and the Diamond DA42 (also known as The Condor), a fixed-wing craft that can fly for 10 hours and cover 1,000 nautical miles.

Pilots will learn how to fly the drones through computer training and practical experience. The operations center has six, 1,000-foot runways, according to a video presentation released by Strategic Aerospace International.

The City of Roswell partnered with Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, MISTIC, RIAC and Strategic Aerospace International to make up the coalition that is responsible for the new pilot center.

“No other UAS facility has this overall training capacity within controlled airspace,” according to Strategic Aerospace.

The center’s operation building is the former U.S. Air Force flight operations facility and can accommodate up to 80 pilot trainees and staff. It is a self-contained compound.

The training center can train pilots from around the world on the SandShark. Instruction can be done on site in Roswell or remotely from any location through network connections.

The Condor has been approved by the military and certified for unmanned flight. The aircraft’s specialty is its ability to fly 10 hours at a time and cover expansive terrain at a fraction of the cost, according to Strategic Aerospace.

The curriculum will provide training for military missions that may focus on maritime activity and movement of ground assets.

Pilots can also be trained on law enforcement missions that will cover a wide range of surveillance missions in rural and urban environments.

Mayor Del Jurney said the announcement was significant for the community.

“For several years, we’ve talked about the next generation of aviation and this is it; this is what we’ve been working towards,” Jurney said. “These are the real players. These are the real people who have the capability and the capacity, the financial strength, and the knowledge of what this means, and what the future looks like.”

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