The Federal Aviation Administration has granted special permission to the Oregon Army National Guard to begin training soldiers to fly UAVs — also known as drones — at the East Oregon Regional Airport.
The soldiers are part of the Guard’s tactical unmanned aerial system platoon. Until now, the Pendleton based unit had to drive an hour west to the Boardman bombing range to train. But besides time spent on the road, the unit also spends 8 to 16 hours to setting up and breaking down equipment.
Senior Warrant Officer Gregg Schroeder is in charge of air traffic and airspace for the Oregon National Guard. He says aviation specialists serve more than the one weekend per month that’s typical for reservists, still there isn’t much time left for actual flight training.
Schroeder said, “Anytime you take away from that operator’s ability to fly, that’s training time lost. That’s the reality.”
The unit is authorized to fly a system called the “RQ-7 Shadow”. The vehicle’s primary mission is to provide commanders with real-time imagery of the battlefield. Schroeder says flights are scheduled to begin early next week.