Funding for UAV program

The Warm Springs unmanned aerial vehicle program is on track to receive significant operational funding, possibly up to $1 million.

The funding comes from the state of Oregon, through the Oregon Innovation Council and SOAR Oregon. SOAR is a nonprofit organization working to strengthen the state’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry. Total new UAV funding to SOAR is at $3 million.

The Warm Springs Reservation is one of three FAA-approved UAV test sites in the state. The other two are in Pendleton and Tillamook. The $3 million will be divided among the three sites.

The Warm Springs UAV program is a project of Warm Springs Ventures, the economic development enterprise of the Confederated Tribes, as approved by Tribal Council.

An aspect of the Warm Springs UAV program involves utilizing Kah-Nee-Ta as a meeting and training center for companies in the UAV business.

The funding will go toward adding workers to run and promote the reservation test range.

Tribal Councilman Kahseuss Jackson, economic development coordinator, sees the potential for new local jobs through the UAV program. The focus should be on having a UAV business locate on the reservation, such as at the industrial park, he said.

A bad scenario, he said, would be for the companies to locate off the reservation, in Madras or Bend, for instance, and then use the reservation just as the test site.

Councilman Jackson discussed this issue in Warm Springs last week with Oregon Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles).

On hand for the discussion were Council members Evaline Patt and Reuben Henry, Chief Joe Moses, tribal planner Lonny Macy, engineer Travis Wells, tribal property coordinator Randy Scott, Government Affairs director Louis Pitt, and Ventures’ Ben Brisland; plus representatives from ODOT and Business Oregon.

The industrial park has propery that could be developed, but there would need to be infrastructure work, including water and sewer. How to fund this work is the main issue. Rep. Huffman said he will work with the tribes to find a solution.