Six drone test-site states named, Idaho not among them

The Spokesman-ReviewDecember 30, 2013 

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced the six states it has chosen to be test sites for drone technology, and Idaho is not among them.

The six states are Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

State Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who sponsored legislation last year seeking the test-site designation, said he’s disappointed but still sees a future for drone technology in Idaho.

“It means we have to develop another tack,” Winder said. “I think there’s still a lot of assets in Idaho that relate to unmanned aircraft systems,” including the Idaho National Laboratory, forestry, agricultural and fish and wildlife operations and more. “There’s a real need to develop curriculum and people that understand the programming and the potential for the use of these unmanned systems.”

Winder said Idaho can still pursue designation as a “Center of Excellence” for drone technology, including both public and private efforts and university programs.

“A lot of times with military bases and siting, a lot of politics play into it,” said Winder, a former Navy pilot. “We’re a pretty small state. We don’t have a lot of political clout, and we may have just lost out on that basis alone.”

Becoming one of the six test sites “would’ve generated a significant number of jobs and expansion of our curriculum in our universities and colleges,” Winder said, “so I think it would’ve been really good for the state. But I think through this Center of Excellence, we can pursue a lot of those same goals, probably without as much participation by the FAA.”

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