Bend nonprofit awards first drone-related grants

SoarOregon focus: agriculture, flight safety, test-range support

BEND, Ore. - Precision agriculture, improved flight safety and reliability, and support for Oregon's flight-test ranges represent the winning areas for five grants totaling $327,000, given by a Bend-based nonprofit and designed to stimulate industry jobs and civilian uses of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) in the state.

The awards announced Friday are the result of a three-month process by the Bend-based nonprofit SoarOregon to select winning proposals for projects to stimulate innovation, create jobs, and help establish Oregon as a national leader in this new technology field.

The awards are intended to seed job creation by enabling the recipients to rapidly complete new commercial products and services that provide a strategic market advantage.

Grants recipients are:

  • Paradigm isr of Bend for development of a system to collect and analyze pest management data for agricultural crops, $60,000;
  • NW UAV of McMinnville, in partnership with the VT Group of Tigard, for completion of a new, certifiable propulsion system for flight vehicles, $75,000;
  • Fordyce Design and Manufacturing of Gaston for a standardized servo system for flight vehicles, $14,000.
  • Insitu's Advanced Programs Engineering Group of Hood River for development of flight navigation and communication systems to integrate manned and unmanned aircraft for missions such as firefighting and search and rescue, $75,000; and
  • Cloud Cap Technologies will integrate Sagetech's next generation transponder for development of a new-generation transponder and autopilot for improved flight safety at test ranges and eventually in the general airspace, $103,000.

"All of these grants help move unmanned technology forward significantly to increase safety, reliability, and functionality, making it possible for unmanned vehicles to take on important roles for which they are uniquely suited," said Rick Spinrad, vice president of research at Oregon State University and board president of SoarOregon.

"Oregon is taking major steps to prove new applications in areas such as agriculture and firefighting, which will lead to new jobs, and we are helping the state's unmanned industry become leaders in the integration of civilian flights into the nation's airspace."

All awards are contingent upon the recipient achieving specific technical or business milestones. Most of the awards also will also involve flights within, or managed by, one of Oregon's three UAS test ranges, at Pendleton, Tillamook, and Warm Springs north of Madras.

Oregon is part of a Pan-Pacific partnership led by Alaska that recently was named one of six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) national Test Sites. All three Oregon ranges have made UAS flights through existing FAA procedures as preliminary steps in standing up under the new FAA system.

SoarOregon, previously known as the Oregon Unmanned Aerial Systems Business Enterprise, received a two-year, $882,000 state grant from the Oregon Business Development Dept. and the Oregon Innovation Council, which was approved by the 2013 Legislature, to stimulate job creation in this new industry.

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