California Airport Could Become Ground Zero for Commercial Drone Research

San Bernardino International Airport and the Tesla Foundation Group have been working to find partners, resources and systems to support the National Commercial Drone Research Center.

by Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, Calif. / June 17, 2016

(TNS) — San Bernardino International Airport could become ground zero for commercial drone research and technology.

The airport is partnering with Tesla Foundation Group, not connected to Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, but a leader in the field of drone use and technology.

“The [drone] industry is evolving and we are trying to evolve with it,” said Mark Gibbs, director of aviation at SBIA.

Airport officials and the Tesla Foundation Group have been working to find other partners, resources and systems to support the National Commercial Drone Research Center, the “think tank and research and development center,” Gibbs said, which could open next year.

“It’s very positive for the airport, and very positive for the region,” Gibbs said. “We do have state of the art facilities here and this is a very collaborative bunch that is very forward-thinking.”

The airport is surrounded by warehouses as part of a master plan of a key goods movement hub in the region. Amazon, which has a fulfillment center nearby for shipping products to online customers, has plans to implement drone delivery.

The Tesla Foundation CEO Keith Kaplan said his organization recognizes the logistics opportunities of San Bernardino International Airport.

SBIA “is a perfect geographic location for the National Commercial Drone Research Center and for all logistics aircraft, both manned and unmanned. ... San Bernardino International Airport has in its DNA, the ability to lead in these areas,” Kaplan said.

The Tesla Foundation and the airport also plan to connect the research center with the San Bernardino Community College District, to prepare students for drone-related industries.

SBCCD Chancellor Bruce Baron said he hopes it will lead to job creation.

“We see this as a growing industry and there are a number of career opportunities,” Baron said. He sees the goals “to improve the economy of San Bernardino”, “create a real innovative project for the airport,” and to “create jobs and academic opportunities for students in this community.”

Drone use is becoming more commonplace.

From the delivery of packages, supplies and cargo, to law enforcement, agriculture and data management, all potential uses.

Drones are also being used to help deliver medical and food supplies to rural areas, collect data for use in asset management and providing law enforcement an eye on situations too dangerous for human personnel to enter, according to Charlene Ashton, associate director of program development for continuing education for the College of the Extended University at Cal Poly Pomona, which prepares adult students for careers in the drone industry.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, especially with the need for economic development in that area.” Ashton said of the new drone research center. “It’s a win for everybody. We need to teach the next generation, and it’s just a wonderful opportunity for those kids to be on the forefront of something new.”

©2016 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.). Visit the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.) at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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