By Jack Barnwell Ridge Crest CA
SAN FRANCISCO — Cal UAS Portal project leader Eileen Shibley spoke Thursday at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo in San Francisco about the innovations coming out of Inyokern Airport in its bid for securing one of six Federal Aviation Administration test and research designation sites.
In front of a room full of unmanned systems experts and industry leaders, Shibley explained Inyokern and Cal UAS Portal’s progress and goals.
Among those goals is to secure a test site from the FAA to help with the safe integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Air System by 2015.
Several reasons existed as to why Cal UAS Portal and Inyokern Airport should be tapped as one of the six sites, she said.
“Inyokern is right in the center of the black hole in the National Airspace map,” Shibley said. “We are unencroached in our airspace and have all of our environmental stuff taken care of.”
Inyokern Airport sits in a prime location long considered a black hole because of the lack of commercial airspace.
Shibley added that the talent drawn from the Indian Wells Valley and the surrounding area – especially that drawn from the ranks of those retired from Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake – are a key component to the Cal UAS Portal.
“What we have in the Cal UAS is the preponderance of unmanned systems intellectual capital,” she said.
Already companies are expressing interest in working with Inyokern and the Cal UAS Portal, Shibley said, with two companies set to move into the team’s lab at Inyokern Airport, another in place to sign a letter of intent and a fourth considering applications.
Among them is Wilson Defense Industries, an organization co-operated by IWV-based talent focused on a variety of different systems for unmanned aircraft.
“One of the things they are doing is working with schools to build kits so kids can put together UAVs,” Shibley said.
She added that the Inyokern-based Cal UAS Portal continues to court other organizations and expand its operations at Inyokern and among its partners.
“We want to continue to populate Cal UAS Lab,” Shibley said. Already investors are eying possible ways they can help to expand and overhaul the Texas Instruments building and expand some of its infrastructure.
Shibley added that Inyokern is being considered as one of the new innovation hubs for GoBiz, of the state economic development office. Twelve iHubs already exist, with GoBiz set to name new three ones in the near future.
“Ours will be aerospace-focused,” Shibley said.
Shibley noted that Cal UAS Portal’s focus is more on systems and research applications for unmanned systems, rather than UAV platforms, something drawn from NAWS China Lake’s background.