SBD airport operations staff/drone pilots operating

SBD airport operations staff/drone pilots operating the drone during a flight demonstration on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the UAS Center at SBD.

The new UAS Center at San Bernardino International Airport (SBD), which opened in July, now provides a local facility for the development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) skills and technologies.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, Highland Community News received exclusive access to a flight demonstration at the UAS Center.

The UAS program was announced earlier this month by the Inland Valley Development Agency in partnership with the San Bernardino County Fire District. The center provides UAS technology companies a location to conduct test flights at a commercial airport. The training site is at 2235 E Perimeter Road, between the U.S. Forest Service and the San Bernardino Regional Emergency Training Center. The center is set to lay the ground for a cement-landing pad with safety features this week.

The center has an FAA COA training certificate. Airport personal Philip Ensley, Nelson Contreas, Eddie Estrada, David Spargo and Jon Galvan are the only Part 107 certified pilots in the program. SBD Airport Manager Nikolas Persson said after the rest of the airport staff are trained and certified drone pilots, they hope to train first responders. Persson said that the focus right now is training and education but he hopes to develop UAS technology to assist the airport in the future for roof inspections and wildlife issues. Persson also hopes one day to bring students to the center for field trips to showcase UAS drone technology and work with local area school districts workplace development programs.

The drone the center uses has U.S. parts and was assembled in South Korea. Each battery the drone uses has 20 minutes of energy; the airport pilots however change the battery at 35 percent as a safety measure. The batteries take about 30 minutes to charge. The drone itself can fly up to 250 feet but the pilots only take it to 245 feet.

The pilots have to check the weather the day before to make sure the conditions are acceptable for flight. Along with filing a flight plan, they must conduct a pre-flight check making sure the batteries are charged and the pilots are well-rested.

Each pilot in charge is required to have a visual observer and must have constant communication and keep the drone within his or her line of sight.

To see video of the drone in action go the top left of this page.

For more information on UAS Center at SBD, go to

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