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Remote Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) Inspection and Response Team Development in the Bering Strait Region

Hands-on in Fairbanks

The Native Village of Unalakleet’s Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (NVU UAS) program, designed to support infrastructure inspections and emergency response in NVU and Bering Strait region, is taking off! Unalakleet now has 3 certified and trained pilots—Katie Daniels, Harry Ivanoff, and John Henry.

In November, with big smiles, the UAS Project Team met in-person in Fairbanks. The week’s activities included training flights, data collec-tion and processing, further development of mission-related documents, and flying the X2E operational drone with the Skydio Team.

Training Highlights

On the first Monday in November, PI Jessica Garron, and UAF pilots Sam Jeffries and Mike DeLue introduced the Skydio S2 UASs to the team gathered. Each morning during training week started with the UAS team meeting at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to pre-pare for the day’s upcoming UAS flight mis-sion, followed by operational coproduction of data management and other program compo-nents, and lots of open discussion as they waited for the sun to rise before flying. The Team then traveled to a location outside of Fairbank’s restricted airspace to practice flying for the rest of the day

During the week together, the team practiced all components of UAS flights and data collec-tion; discussed the pros and cons of Drone Deploy and Pix 4D for drone data processing software options; designed and conducted 2 and 3 dimensional (2D and 3D) scans with the S2s; identified aircraft nuances specific to cold weather operations in snowy environments; and shared a lot of laughs.

On the last day, pilots from Skydio, the UAS vendor for the project, joined the Team in Fairbanks to demonstrate the X2E UAS and its features. The Skydio X2E is different from the S2 UAS the team had flown all the week prior, by also having a thermal infrared sensor about twice the flight time than the S2s, both of which are key components for search and rescue mission support with a UAS. Skydio and the Team conducted long range flights at the Chena Flood Control Project, fol-lowed by indoor 3D scan flights of Bus 142 also known as the Magic Bus of the tragic tale Into to the Wild. The bus is being prepared for display by the Museum of the North and is cur-rently under the earliest stages of restoration in the high bay of the Engineering Learning and Innovation Facility, home to the Institute of Northern Engineering, located on the UAF campus.

“There were so many pivotal components of our week togeth-er as a team in November that will define how the rest of this project plays out. Most im-portant of these was leveraging the foundation of trust we have as a team and enjoying the friendships we have developed as colleagues.” (PI Jessica Garron)

Other Project Updates: Training in Unalakleet, Community Fair & More...

The final hands-on training for the NVU pilots will be in Unalakleet the first week of March 2022 when this time UAF and Skydio come to them. The Teams will conduct training missions with the S2s and X2Es, hold flight demonstrations and a Community Fair. Besides the NVU training and comple-tion of the protocols, work continues on the feasibility study determining the viability of expanding the project regionally, an upcoming peer-review publication, and two end-of-the-project webinars.