State Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, introduced a resolution into the Legislature Thursday encouraging the Department of Commerce to work on getting Idaho designated as one of six unmanned aerial vehicle research and development hubs in the nation.
Winder, who served four years in the Navy and eight years in the Naval Reserve, asked the department to work with the University of Idaho, Boise State University and other stakeholders in developing a proposal for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Two years ago, Congress tasked the FAA with selecting the test sites for the drone industry. It helped the agency craft the regulations and operating procedures needed to integrate unmanned aircraft into the North American airspace in the coming years.
At least 50 government, university and industry groups are working on unmanned aerial vehicle designs. The aircraft can be programmed to follow specific flight patterns and perform certain functions. Some weigh as little as 4 ounces and have 6-inch wingspans; others have 240-foot wingspans and weigh as much as 32,000 pounds.
Aviation experts think drones will eventually be used for everything from crop and weather monitoring to search and rescue missions. From a communications standpoint, they could provide cellphone coverage in remote areas or help incident managers decide how to fight remote wildfires.
Possible sites in Idaho, Winder said, include the INL property near Idaho Falls or a remote runway at Gowan Field in Boise.