Council approves drone integration pilot program

Partnership puts Rochelle as one of five possible testing sites nationwide

ROCHELLE — Rochelle could be one of five drone testing sites across the country.

City Council approved a resolution authorizing a partnership with Natex Research, a Park Ridge, Ill. based firm, in a drone integration pilot program. Dennis Rouleau and Christian Wilson along with Rochelle airport manager Mike Hudetz addressed council Monday evening to explain recent moves by the Federal Government and how it is addressing the growing drone use nationwide.

Hudetz explained there is eventually going to be new laws drafted to allow drones to fly out of the line of sight. Currently the drones have to be seen by the operator. The testing will help identify any safety or privacy issues.

“Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) technology is advancing rapidly and the FAA is looking for sites where these aircraft can be tested within the boundaries of rural settings,” said Jeff Fiegenschuh, Rochelle City Manager. “We believe that as UAS technology becomes a viable resource for direct distribution of products that can be delivered through drones, economic development opportunities will follow. Test sites will likely become permanent locations for new industries that are designed to take advantage of such technologies.”

Rouleau explained the program would help advance commercial use of UAVs into the transportation system.

“Essentially the FAA is looking for five test sites, or leads, that are defined as a state or local municipality. We are asking Rochelle to partner with us,” Rouleau said. “After meeting with the Rochelle team, Mike Hudetz, and Jason Anderson [Rochelle Economic Director], I think it’s a perfect match…we think it will be a good relationship.”

Rouleau also mentioned his belief in the progressiveness of Rochelle, with the railroad, utility company, and data center.

Robert German, Natex Research Lead Service Designer said if Rochelle is one of the five testing sites approved, Natex will work with the city to accelerate their city-wide adoption of drone technology.

“Rochelle (The Hub) has a unique legacy of innovation leadership, such as owning their own railroad, their own utility company and data center and were among the first cities in the country to install fiber optics,” said German. “Now, their community is preparing itself to be among the first in the country to benefit from city-wide adoption of UAV technology. We envision dramatic positive impacts to the community. Law enforcement, fire, and infrastructure management, and even late night pizza lovers, stand to benefit.”

German added that in addition to ensuring public safety, the most important aspect of their work is educating the community on drone technology and the laws that govern their use.




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