Laramie Regional Airport Board Chairman Tim Stamp said that one potential application for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, would be for the Game and Fish Department to gather animal population data.
“Right now, they’re flying planes and having guys hang out of the plane and count them, and that isn’t very accurate. Plus, it isn’t really all that safe,” Stamp said.
Other applications would be for ranchers to find roaming cattle, and for oil and gas companies to remotely detect gas leaks.
Stamp said that the drone industry could bring jobs to the state.
“It means a lot when you start talking about changing our economy, having jobs for our young people, and this is a whole industry that will have great impact with technology,” said Stamp.
One reason Laramie is an appealing location to the airport’s partner, Infinity Development, is because it is close to the University of Wyoming. Some drones transmit two terabytes of data an hour, so computing infrastructure would need to be built. Another draw is the limited air traffic in the area.
Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration prevents privately owned UAVs from being flown outside the pilot’s line of sight. That would have to change for the private drone industry to become viable.
If these plans succeed, Laramie and Grand Forks, North Dakota, would provide drone services for the entire Rocky Mountain and Northwest region.