The Oregon Department of Aviation has applied for a program that would allow its three unmanned aerial systems ranges — Pendleton, Tillamook and Warm Springs — to work with private drone companies on more advanced operations.

According to a department press release, inclusion in the Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program will allow test ranges to work with drone companies to complete procedures like operations at night, flights over people, automated flights, and flights that are beyond the line of sight of the remote pilots.

As these companies develop applications like drone delivery, search and rescue operations, wildlife surveys, and accident scene reconstruction, the FAA will continue to receive data that it will use for the eventual integration of UAS into the national airspace.

“The state of Oregon has been a leader in the field of unmanned aircraft,” department Director Mitch Swecker said. “The state has been at the forefront of creating balanced UAS legislation, and has created an environment that attracts UAS businesses to Oregon. The three established UAS test ranges are a testament to Oregon’s commitment. That means jobs and economic development throughout our state.”

Steve Chrisman, Pendleton’s economic development director and airport manager, said the Pendleton UAS Range had been independently working on an application for the program. But when range officials realized that many of the program’s operational benefits were things the range was already working on, they dropped their application and threw their support behind the state.

Chrisman said the program could eventually result in more business for all three test ranges, but they’ll have to wait to see how the application process works out.

The press release states that the department is working with Intel, Insitu, Skyward, Oregon State University and other industry members to develop a framework that would integrate an electronic license plate system for drones with an automated state-wide air traffic control system.

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