Drones have begun flying at Concord Airport as operations get off the ground at the state’s first training facility for unmanned aircraft.
The training facility from ArgenTech Solutions of Newmarket opened earlier this month after receiving an airspace waiver that allows UAVs, as they’re officially known, to be flown within the controlled airspace of the airport.
“We’re just starting to set up shop a little bit,” said Rita Hunt, a company spokeswoman who was formerly an aviation planner with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. The company will have an Open House on
ArgenTech has already held a few flying sessions with students, operating on the long-closed runway along the airport’s eastern edge, and over adjacent grassy areas. The drones stay below 120 feet above the ground and are only up in the air for 20 minutes, due to battery limitations.
Normally drones cannot operate within the airspace of an airport from concern that they may endanger piloted operations.
“We also send an email to the National Guard, state police and airport management to let them know when we’re going to fly,” Hunt said. The Army National Guard has a major flight operation based at Concord, and state police also base some aircraft there.
The company uses many types of UAVs, including multi-rotor craft of the sort most familiar to hobbyists, fixed-wing drones, and hybrid or vertical take-off drones.
The nine-year-old ArgenTech provides a variety of commercial services related to UAVs as well as training, particularly for those who want to become commercial UAV pilots.
Hunt said hands-on training is important even though the only requirement to get a commercial drone license is to pass a test known as Part 107, after the federal regulations.
The test is not trivial. Questions require detailed knowledge about weather (“Which thunderstorm lifecycle stage is mostly characterized by downdrafts?”) and being able to understand details about complex aviation charts and regulations (“You’re asked to inspect the high-intensity lighted tower 12 statute miles SE of Lake Drummond. What’s the highest you’re allowed to fly as long as you operate within 400 feet of the tower?”).
But ArgenTech doesn’t think it’s enough, Hunt said.
“It doesn’t have any practical exam, no flight training, anything like that. In our opinion this doesn’t meet a level of safety that we would like to see for the national air space system,” she said.
ArgenTech is certified as a veteran-owned company and recently won the Freedom Award for its support of employees of the National Guard and Reserves.
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