Home News Local News Drone training facility could be part of city’s future

Drone training facility could be part of city’s future

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This area in northwest Roswell off of West 19th Street and behind the Chaves County JOY Center could become an “aeronatuical annex” used for a drone training site. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The city of Roswell and the Roswell International Air Center are considering partnering with local schools and universities to create a drone training facility in northwest Roswell.

“This is something that we could engage our youth on and make this air center a relevant thing for them,” says Mark Bleth, Roswell International Air Center manager. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Mark Bleth, the new Air Center manager, said he has worked with Community Development Manager and Planning Director Bill Morris to set aside 10 acres or more off of West 19th Street to create an “aeronautical annex” to train youth and college students to operate drones, or unmanned aircraft systems.

“There are not many drone facilities in the United States,” he told people attending the Airport Advisory Commission meeting on Thursday. “If you look at the demographics of who’s flying drones and what they are being used for, this is not just a fun thing to do. This is an occupational thing to do. A lot of jobs are tied to this.”

The plan is in the conceptual phase at this time. In fact, the city is still in the process of determining what will occur with the land, which is part of the property that once was the municipal airport. The proposed site is located just west of North Montana Avenue off behind the Chaves County JOY Center and the Elks Lodge. The city’s master plan has indicated that the area is intended to be used in part for recreational and educational activities, although mixed use retail and housing developments were also cited as possible uses for the land.

Bleth said that a drone training facility also will help serve another purpose, making the Air Center relevant to community members.

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“I have talked to lots of people, just regular people who work as cashiers or some other place, and this is the old base,” said Bleth. “This is the boneyard. This is not the economic engine of their future.”

He said he has had some initial discussions with local K12 and university administrators about creating the aeronautical park as well as educational programs and workforce training.

“This is something that we want to team with those entities and create moving forward,” he said, “and to the point that actually students are designing the park layout and the course layout. This is something that we could engage our youth on and make this air center a relevant thing for them.”

A 2013 economic impact study produced by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International concluded that the industry is expected to create more than 100,000 jobs nationwide by 2025. In New Mexico, the industry is predicted to contribute $606 million to the economy and create 765 new jobs between 2015 and 2025.

The association also indicates that the United States is the world’s largest manufacturer of drones, with more than 100 companies and entities engaged in design of unmanned vehicles. While the largest economic sectors nationwide to use drones in the near future are believed to be agriculture and public safety, the association’s study found that 80 percent of the first 500 operators to obtain commercial exemptions are small business owners and the top 10 uses are in real estate, aerial surveying, aerial photography, agriculture, aerial inspection, construction, infrastructure inspection, utility inspection, film and TV photography, and environmental monitoring.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.