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    Colorado Startups Push to Get Unmanned Aircraft Industry Airborne

Colorado Startups Push to Get Unmanned Aircraft Industry Airborne

The sky might be the limit for the unmanned aircraft industry, but before it takes flight, the engineers, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts trying to build an industry that they say could soon have a $13.6 billion economic impact will have to navigate a tricky route through the offices of regulators and lawmakers—and the court of public opinion.

This is a fact of life for people like Allen Bishop, president and CEO of Reference Technologies. The three-year-old startup is designing and building unmanned aerial systems at its headquarters in Lafayette, CO, a town about 15 minutes east of Boulder.

ReferenceTek is building an autonomous system Bishop believes could revolutionize the way public safety officials respond to emergencies and how physicians deliver medicine in the developing world.

Bishop was showing off his aircraft Tuesday at a demonstration hosted by FreeWave Technologies, a Boulder-based company that makes radios. FreeWave wants to capitalize on what could be a growing industry, and for the prior two days had hosted a gathering of entrepreneurs and researchers to talk shop and show off its creations.

[A note on nomenclature: while the public and media call the vehicles drones, people in the industry shy away from the term. They prefer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the aircraft itself and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for the UAVs, ground stations, and communications systems that control them. They also distinguish between military drones equipped with missiles and used in combat with civilian systems.]

The guests and FreeWave’s employees ended the day in the company’s hangar-like break area for flight demonstrations. Bishop, though, began his day in Denver, meeting state legislators to discuss potential new bills UAS advocates believe could make or break the industry in the state.

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How drones will change your life

(CNN) – Apart from what they do for the military; drones have already proven themselves capable sheep herders, delivery boys,tour guides, filmmakers, archaeologists, and — possibly – spies.

The global economic potential of these machines is astounding; a recent study estimated the worldwide market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at $89 billion in 2013.

Proponents are eager to point out the many ways they’re going to make our lives better.

“Really, this technology is an extra tool to help an industry be more effective,” says Gretchen West, the executive vice president for theAssociation for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

“With precision agriculture, for example, it can take pictures of fields so farmers can identify problems they wouldn’t necessarily see walking through the fields. In law enforcement, you could find a child lost in the woods more easily than walking through a field, particularly if there’s bad weather or treacherous ground.”

While it may seem that drones are set to take over our lives, the reality is a bit more complicated. Drone usage around the world is definitely picking up in the public sector, but when it comes to commercial activity, many countries have strict limitations.

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    Arcturus UAV and WGS Systems Integrate Europa-S SIGINT System on T-20 UAS

Arcturus UAV and WGS Systems Integrate Europa-S SIGINT System on T-20 UAS

ROHNERT PARK, Calif., Nov. 4, 2013 – The Europa-S Signal Intercept and Geolocation System, built by WGS Systems in Frederick, Maryland, has now been integrated and flown in an Arcturus UAV T-20 Tier II unmanned aerial vehicle.  Arcturus UAV is headquartered in Rohnert Park, California.  Endurance for the T-20 UAV is 12-14 hours and the vehicle can reach an altitude of 20,000′ MSL.  The Europa-S Communication Intelligence and Direction Finding (COMINT/DF) system is capable of detecting, intercepting, direction finding (DF) and geo-locating signals of interest.  Operating frequencies are 30 MHz – 3 GHz.  Europa-S adds significant Signal Collection capability to the T-20 UAV.
The unique aspects of the system are wide signal intercept frequency range, small operational footprint on the ground (1 or 2 full size pick-up trucks,) quiet operation (the T-20 utilizes a modified 4-stroke engine,) and the ability to interface with other payloads on the T-20, such as EO/IR and SAR.
Europa-S is mature at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of over TRL 8, utilizing system components fielded since 2010.  The T-20 is a runway independent, Tier II class, small tactical unmanned aerial vehicle, TRL 9.  The primary mission of the Arcturus UAV is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Typical missions include aerial mapping, drug interdiction, fire-fighting, border patrol, force protection, search and rescue, as well as military ISR.
The T-20 payload consists of a gimbal sensor that provides full motion video from daylight and infrared cameras.  Video is transmitted by secure data link to mission commanders on the ground. An onboard GPS autopilot with waypoint navigation accepts multiple flight plans from the Ground Control Station, allowing the T-20 to fly missions up to 16 hours (depending on configuration,) and return to a specified location autonomously.  The T-20 is [...]

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Flying Without Ever Leaving The Ground

At the University of North Dakota, one of the country’s largest collegiate flight schools, they’re flying something different: Drones.

By 2018, just five years from now, the FAA projects that 7500 drones, or unmanned aircraft, could be flying in U.S. airspace. And the University of North Dakota hopes to be supplying many of their pilots.

The University of North Dakota’s aviation program at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is huge and internationally prestigious. They train helicopter pilots, air traffic controllers, and they fly hundreds of flights a day from Grand Forks airport making it the 23rd-busiest in the United States, despite having only six commercial flights.

The Unmanned Aviation Systems major, which started in 2009, now has 134 undergraduates. And it’s one of the fastest-growing majors.

“Our school has always been entrepreneurial,” says Bruce Smith, dean of the Odegard School. “So there’s always been a connection between the degrees our students get and the jobs and the careers that are available out in the industry.”
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ScanEagle Launch
A ScanEagle drone is launched at the University of North Dakota.

The newly minted drone pilots, all commercially licensed pilots as well can earn as much as $120,000 a year depending on the position. And while military combat has dominated the past decade, the future offers a wide array of possibilities, like fighting forest fires.

“Being able to coordinate where..water is used, where manpower is used, where aircrafts drop their retardants,” says UND student Scott Johnson. “You’re going to be able to fight the fire so much more effectively because you’ll be able to see it from 60,000 feet.”

Student Jake Schultz sees drones being applied to farming. “You could use one to just fly over crops to see [...]

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