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Large UAV test meetings set

HILLSBORO -- The North Dakota State University Extension Service is starting a series of public meetings to keep farmers and others informed about the results of a large unmanned aerial vehicle data-gathering test.

HILLSBORO -- The North Dakota State University Extension Service is starting a series of public meetings to keep farmers and others informed about the results of a large unmanned aerial vehicle data-gathering test.

An initial May 26 informational meeting drew about 20 people at the Traill County Courthouse in Hillsboro. A series of regular meetings begin June 16 and will continue every two weeks at various locations in Traill and Steele counties through Aug. 25. The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. every Thursday. The first meeting is at Hillsboro Regional Airport, and other locations have yet to be announced.

Alyssa Schebe, the Traill County Extension Service ag and natural resources agent, says the airport event is designed to be educational for farmers and others in the test corridor, which stretches four miles wide and 40 miles long, from west of Hillsboro, to 5 miles east of Cooperstown.

"It's for landowners and renters, as well as the public," says John Nowatzki, an NDSU Extension machine specialist. "We'd like to keep communications open and update those in attendance so that people who have questions can come straight to the source."

Farmers in the corridor at the meeting will learn how they can access and use imagery for their own land. The imagery is protected and only to be used with the landowner or farmer's permission.

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The large UAV is followed by a chase plane for visual control currently required by the Federal Aviation Administration. It is being compared to data collected by a smaller UAV, which can collect imagery over one square mile in per hour, and at lower altitudes.

NDSU and a private company are testing the data-collecting capabilities of a large UAV. The research is done with a Hermes 450, which weighs 1,200 pounds and has a 35-foot wingspan. The UAV is owned by Elbit Systems of Haifa, Israel, and can carry up to 400 pounds of equipment. It can run for more than 12 hours without landing, collecting imagery of 3,000, 5,000 and 8,000 feet.

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