Prior to its scheduled launch in 2018, the ArcticShark, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed to collect atmospheric data in the Arctic, will undergo flight testing at the Pendleton UAS Test Range in Oregon.
To be owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the agency’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, the ArcticShark will eventually be equipped with more than a dozen different instruments designed to record measurements gathered about Earth’s atmosphere. According to SOAR Oregon – a state-funded, nonprofit group that fosters growth in Oregon’s UAS industry – the data will help scientists better understand one of the most sensitive regions of the planet.
With a wingspan of 22 feet and a gross takeoff weight of 625 pounds, the drone can fly up to 15,000 feet and has a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour.
Flight testing and pilot training of the ArcticShark at Pendleton is expected to take place almost daily from Feb. 27 through March 17. In addition, the UAS is scheduled to begin field research in Alaska starting in 2018.
Oregon’s ranges operate under the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, which is administered by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
The past year has been a concentrated effort by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., which manages the ARM Facility; ArgenTech Solutions; the Pendleton UAS Range; and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks to obtain Federal Aviation Administration flight approvals and build the concept of operations for ArcticShark.
“The City of Pendleton and the State of Oregon have invested a tremendous amount of time and resources toward developing a premier UAS test range in eastern Oregon,” says Steve Chrisman, economic development director and airport manager for the City of Pendleton, Ore. “PNNL was the first organization to approach us about using the range, so it’s nice to see everyone’s hard work come to fruition. This is really just the beginning of a new age in aviation.”
Earl Bowerman, executive director of SOAR Oregon, adds, “As Oregon’s UAS industry facilitator, we’re pleased that the DOE has selected our Pendleton range to conduct testing on a UAS that will help scientists around the world to understand our planet more fully. One of the most exciting aspects of UAS research and development is its potential to help solve our most critical global challenges.”