The community of Hawthorne and Hawthorne Army Depot successfully showcased a sample of what can be offered to Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones during Operation Hawthorne Discovery last week. Christopher E. Walach, Director of Operations for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, proclaimed the event a huge success during the After Action Review held at the Hawthorne Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 11. Interestingly, mission was accomplished despite less than perfect weather conditions as the participants faced blustery and cold weather with a touch of precipitation during the two-day event.
George Gram, General Manager of SOC Nevada and Rob Schleef, Deputy Director of Installation Services, initiated red carpet treatment for the out-of-town visitors as part of the Armament Retooling Manufacturing Support (ARMS) program which is designed provide economic development opportunities to businesses interested in underutilized facilities at the Hawthorne Army Depot.
Lt. Col. Gregory Gibbons extended a welcome to attendees and an all hands meeting was held in town with Walach, (Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems) NIAS, on behalf of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, officiating. The stated mission of NAIS is to 1- Achieve air flight in Nevada, 2- Expand the airspace and 3- Bring business opportunities to the State of Nevada. In addition, volunteer observers were trained and data gathered in order to generate lessons learned. Walach offered an extensive safety briefing each day and no incidents occurred during the mission.
Indoor flight-testing took place at HWAD on day one with University of Nevada Reno’s. …introducing Tim Hall as an honorary flight engineer of the hexagon shaped drone. Others who participated in the pre-flight included University of Nevada Las Vegas, AboveNV and Skyworks. As the weather began to clear the group caravanned to a remote outdoor site referred to as MOUT Cubic Big D where outdoor flights and observations took place. As the sun set, the group completed the first day’s mission at Black Beauty Reservoir with the valley floor and expanse of the Depot in view.
Day two staging took place on the south end of Walker Lake with multiple flights and observations successfully conducted. Lunch was hosted each day through the generosity of merchants in Hawthorne and coordinated by Shelley Hartmann, Mineral County Economic Development. The final presentation was given by Bob Jannarone, Brainlike, Inc., who indicated, “We are now talking about the horse (drone) and the cart (payload)!” Jannarone explained how expert eyes are needed to help interpret the data that is collected and how the image processing is becoming more and more valuable and advanced.
In his closing remarks, Walach indicated that the mission was one of the most successful in the State of Nevada and possibly in the Nation. Certainly, it is anticipated that the UAS Industry will revisit the Hawthorne area, and won’t they be impressed when given the opportunity to enjoy Hawthorne’s more temperate climate and beautiful outdoors.