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Eastern Oregon Drone Test Range Chalks Up First Flight

Peak3 Inc.

A drone test range in northeastern Oregon launched its first flight Tuesday.

A small quadcopter made two five-minute flights over a fallow wheat field outside Pendleton. Then high winds scrubbed the rest of the day’s planned testing.

  Pendleton UAS Range manager John Stevens said one of the primary goals of the range is to work out how drones can safely coexist with manned aircraft.

“We use a visual observer on the ground. We clear the airspace around where we’re flying,” he said. “ We publish a NOTAM — a notice to airmen — where we’re flying, when we’re flying and what altitudes.”

The Pendleton test range is one of three in Oregon to win the blessing of the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s the first to become operational. The other ranges are centered at the Tillamook airport on the Oregon Coast and over the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

A coalition of groups in Washington state also competed last year for FAA approval to host drone testing, but were passed over.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.