PENDLETON, Ore. - The first official launch of drones in eastern Oregon took place on Tuesday.
The new Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) took flight at the Pendleton Airport. The National Guard has soldiers who will train with the equipment in civilian airspace. Training, but definitely not spying. Unlike active drones used in combat the army says these ones do not record any information.
"We're absolutely not in the business of gathering any intelligence on U.S. Citizens," said Mark Braeme of the U.S. Army.
The drones will be operated by mostly local soldiers who have trained with the equipment before in other locations including active war zones in the case of one operator we spoke with.
"I bring what I learned overseas to teach new recruits within the platoon how to use the system correctly in a combat situation," explained Sgt. Michael Avery.
Right now the drones are only approved to be used for training, but Sgt. Avery hopes they can help respond to emergencies like fires and missing persons in the future. According to the Oregon National Guard, Pendleton is an ideal location to start this kind of training in civilian airspace because of it's climate, terrain and low commercial air traffic.