- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Developers of a test range in Eastern Oregon for the unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones have conducted their first flights, but high winds ended them early.

The four-propeller drone was launched as high as 200 feet above a field north of Pendleton, the East Oregonian (https://bit.ly/1rv0uOD) reported.

It was to scan a small barbecue grill for heat signatures - a test of its ability to pinpoint hot spots for crews fighting wildfires.

It was launched and landed twice.

Pilot Brian Prange said the winds at flight level were running about 29 mph with gusts to nearly 35 mph, near the limits of the drone’s ability to avoid a “fly-away,” when it wouldn’t be powerful enough to return against the headwinds.

The Pendleton test site is managed by a contractor, Peak 3 Technical Services, for the city of Pendleton, which has invested more than $100,000 in launch pads for the test range.

The city hopes to spur the local economy through the visits of people from companies trying out drones for commercial purposes, and eventually to attract those companies to establish permanent offices and manufacturing plants.

The city’s economic development director, Steve Chrisman, said the first tests mark “what we all hope will be a new chapter in Pendleton’s economic future.”

Tests are expected to be conducted on the range at the local airport as well as off-site locations such as the one chosen Tuesday.

The test range is among those in Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii approved by the federal government last year and overseen by an agency at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.info


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