Large drones may soon be flying in and out of the Powell Municipal Airport. The state of Wyoming might help with the cost of a drone manufacturing plant there. If so, it will be one of the first public airports in the nation to allow drones and manned aircraft in the same airspace.
Powell’s Municipal airport, on the top of Polecat Bench, is relatively quiet much of the time.
It is not a commercial airport. It’s general aviation. And, it already has a restricted airspace for aerobatics. So, if a private pilot is practicing loops and rolls, the airport manager notifies other possible incoming flights.
Powell Airport Operator Debbie Weckler explained, “I’ll call Salt Lake Center Control, FAA, and also Denver Control…they will put in a notem worldwide, U.S. wide.”
Weckler said the pilots who are flying in communicate with the pilot who is practicing aerobatics. If drones are allowed in the same restricted airspace, the same notification system could be used.
Powell Economic Partnership Director Christene Bekes commented, “We’re not talking about a boy and his drone, nor a girl and her drone. We’re talking about remotely piloted aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles. Definitely the larger units.”
The man who wants to fly, and build drones at the Powell airport is Tom Rullman. He says the industrial drones will have 10 to 17 foot wingspans. They will be used for non-military purposes.
Bekes described the uses, “Precision agriculture, public safety, like fighting fires…also around surveying.”
Bekes said the large piloted drones are allowed at very few airports, and those are mostly military. She said Powell’s airport is a great place to start.
She explained, “The reason why the Powell Airport is such an ideal space to proposed this setup and operate both a manufacturing facility, testing, and flight certification and training around remotely piloted aircraft is because we already operate a restricted airspace.”
Bekes said the project cost for the manufacturing plant, training center and infrastructure will be about half a million dollars. They are hoping to get grants from the city of Powell and the Wyoming Business Council to build the structure.
Rullman is originally from California. He chose to move his operation to Northwest Wyoming after moving to Wapiti last summer.