Udall wants drone test site in Colorado

BOULDER – Sen. Mark Udall is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to get a new drone test site location in Colorado, he said Wednesday.

University of Colorado-Boulder officials organized a state application for the new site – one of six unmanned-aircraft-system test sites planned to be built this year in the United States. Unmanned aircraft are commonly called drones. Udall, D-Colo., made the announcement during remarks he made at the 2013 Boulder Economic Summit at the Wolf Law Building on CU-Boulder campus.

Congress has approved the plan to create the six sites to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into U.S. airspace. No financial funding is budgeted to build the sites, according to the FAA website.

“I’m going to be there on the front lines, making sure we get one of those test sites,” Udall said.

Colorado has a strong aerospace industry with the background to support such a test site, Udall said. Civilian uses for drones include forest fire support, disaster assessment, search and rescue missions, oil and gas exploration and research projects, according to a letter sent from Colorado leaders to the FAA in the test-site request. A team of Colorado leaders working on the project includes 10 economic development agencies, seven universities, five industry associations, two state agencies and dozens of private companies

When it comes to economic stimulus, Udall said he hopes to work with others in Congress to find short-term funding alternatives to federal budget cuts known as “sequestration” – the process in which federal dollars already may be appropriated by Congress but aren’t being spent because of federal budget austerity measures.

“The ‘club’ of sequestration is not the answer,” Udall said.

“Robust” funding for federal laboratories such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, both in Boulder, is important, Udall said. So is funding for state universities, including CU, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

Udall also said he is in favor of cutting some federal “entitlement” programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and focusing on doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health. Among NIH’s roles is making research and development grants to research projects around the nation.


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