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Eastern Oregon Drone Test Range Chalks Up First Flight

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Peak3 Inc.

A drone test range in northeastern Oregon launched its first flight Tuesday.

A small quadcopter made two five-minute flights over a fallow wheat field outside Pendleton. Then high winds scrubbed the rest of the day’s planned testing.

Pendleton UAS Range manager John Stevens said one of the primary goals of the range is to work out how drones can safely coexist with manned aircraft.

“We use a visual observer on the ground. We clear the airspace around where we’re flying,” he said. “ We publish a NOTAM -- a notice to airmen -- where we’re flying, when we’re flying and what altitudes.”

The Pendleton test range is one of three in Oregon to win the blessing of the Federal Aviation Administration. It’s the first to become operational. The other ranges are centered at the Tillamook airport on the Oregon Coast and over the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

A coalition of groups in Washington state also competed last year for FAA approval to host drone testing, but were passed over.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.