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Drone-Unmanned Vehicle Research and Development Center Proposed for Eastern Kentucky

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A site in eastern Kentucky is set to serve as the home for future development of drones, robots and unmanned vehicles. As Government and education leaders revealed plans for the USA Drone Port: National Unmanned Robotic Research and Development Center Monday in Hazard.

The port, at a site in Perry or Knott County, will feature facilities for inventors, technicians, students, and manufacturers to fly, drive, test, and rebuild unmanned products.  Director of Operations Bart Massey says the U.S. has lost about 80% of drone manufacturing to Asia and Europe due to strict regulation.  He hopes this complex would help change that trend.  “We have the air space.  We have the land.  We have the workforce to be able to handle this. We have the educational institutions,” said Massey.

Massey says there will also be advanced manufacturing, 3-D printing, welding, and educational programs.  The proposed port will have a 3.500 foot plus runway capable of landing fixed wing drones.  Massey says work will also be done on submarine drones. A large indoor flight facility is included in the plans.  “You’re looking at a pretty large square foot area that also probably 4 to 5 stories tall where they can literally come into this and they can test their aircraft right inside the facility,” explained Massey.

Massey says the hope is for drone, robot, and unmanned vehicle manufacturers to locate in southeastern Kentucky.  He says that would provide sizeable employment opportunities.  Massey estimates the first phase investment to be about $10 million.   The technology solutions manager at Hazard Community and Technical College envisions the USA Drone Port to be up and running in about 2 years.

© 2017 WEKU

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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