Unmanned Aircraft Company Locates at Altoona Airport

by | Aug 14, 2015 | News, Uncategorized

As appeared in the Altoona Mirror

A company that builds and sells small unmanned aircraft has begun to set up a testing center inside a hangar at the Altoona-Blair County Airport.

Navmar Applied Sciences Corp. of Warminster in Bucks County, which builds the aircraft at its Johnstown-area site, selected the Altoona-Blair County Airport to be its testing and engineering center because of the airport’s location. “Look at those state game lands there,” Navmar Regional Coordinator Ed Celiano said. When federal regulations are changed to permit airborne testing of unmanned aircraft, options will be restricted to lesser populated areas with lesser risks. “This airport is in a perfect location for that,” Celiano added.

In addition, Navmar leaders said thecenter will allow them to further develop a relationship with educational institutions. Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory, for instance, may be able to help with expertise for de-icing this aircraft, said Timothy Eden, head of Penn State’s Materials Processing Division. “We see ourselves as providing a supportive role, Eden said. “When Navmar comes to us, we could sit down and pull out the expertise of Penn State.”

While Navmar develops unmanned aircraft systems for military reconnaissance and surveillance missions, it’s also capable of purposes such as agricultural research, pipeline patrol, leak detection and water-related searches, Navmar operations manager Richard Lever said.

While those type of commercial uses are currently prohibited, changes to the regulations restricting usage have been suggested and remain subject to debate. Change needs to occur faster, said U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, who stopped at the airport Tuesday to meet with Navmar officials. The Europeans and the Asians are already making headway with this technology “while our government is taking too long,” Shuster said.

While the company expects to assign six employees to the center during its first year, it plans to increase that number to 25 by its third year. “Having 25 more people work out here, that has to have a trickle-down effect,” Hite said. “I think this is going to be a win-win for the airport and our local economy.”

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