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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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When Droning On Is Preferred

Students in the environmental science and resource management program at Cal State Channel Islands have many resources to study coastal wildlife. Now add unmanned aircraft to that list. The Camarillo school received a donation from Northrop Grumman Corp. of two Inventus-class aircraft that it will incorporate into its curriculum. Jason Miller, a senior research officer at the university, said the environmental program will use it for surveying and monitoring wildlife and studying coastal dynamics. “We are proud we are on the cutting edge,” said Miller, who added that biology, chemistry, and even applied physics and mathematics may make use of the aircraft. The 6-foot-long Inventus had been used by the Falls Church, Va. defense contractor at its aerospace systems division office in Camarillo. Manufactured by Lew Aerospace, in Las Vegas, it is capable of flying for 30 hours at a range of 2,000 miles and an altitude of 10,000 feet. The unmanned aerial vehicles were built in 2003 for under $1 million. Ventura County is home to several companies building drones or supplying components, the most well-known being AeroVironment Inc., a Monrovia company that manufactures and tests its hand-launched line of UAVs in Simi Valley. Tom Nielsen, the president of the Channel Islands chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an Arlington, Va. trade group, said the donation follows encouragement by the Federal Aviation Administration to get drones into the hands of educational institutions that can develop curricula around them. “(The agency) did not have a methodology on UAV use and decided to use universities to develop a policy,” Nielsen said. Before students can operate the aircraft, the school must secure permission from the FAA, which it hopes to complete in the next four to six months, Miller said. It also must refurbish the aircraft. Military–grade navigation and radio control systems were removed by Northrop Grumman and need to be replaced. Northrop had used the planes to test and evaluate unmanned aircraft support technology. “That will be a wonderful learning experience to understand aerodynamics and payload engineering,” Miller said. For now, the drones are on loan to the Career Education Center Air Academy operated by the Ventura County Office of Education, where high school students can learn more about what the planes can do and career opportunities in aviation. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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