August 7, 2022


An Unmanned Community

Launching Alaska’s First Large Drone Operation from an International Airport: University of Alaska

large drone operationlarge drone operationUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks Completes Alaska’s First Civilian Large Drone Operation from an International Airport

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M Crosby

DroneLife · Alaskas – First – Large – Commercial – Drone – Operation – At – An – International – Airport

Last Sunday, the University of Alaska Fairbanks flew an unmanned aircraft from the general aviation area of Fairbanks International Airport, marking the first civilian large drone operation from an international airport in Alaska. The flight was the result of years of preparation and coordination with both the airport and the Federal Aviation Authority.

The UAF Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration’s 280 pound Sentry aircraft took off from the airport’s general runway, following a designated flight path used for departures, arrivals and runway approach practice. The aircraft was controlled remotely by ACUASI personnel inside the airport’s ground control station, from which they communicated and complied with air traffic controllers just as other general aviation pilots.

“This historic flight for Alaska is the result of the dedication of the ACUASI team and our great partners at Fairbanks International Airport, the state of Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Federal Aviation Administration,” said ACUASI Director Cathy Cahill. “This flight is an important first step in developing a drone economy in Alaska and improved freight and mail transport to rural Alaskans.”

“Drones have such potential in environments like Alaska. They have huge economic potential for our businesses and industries,” Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. “But perhaps more importantly they have the potential to help Alaskans when we need it the most, during disasters and emergencies such as surveilling a wildfire or dropping emergency supplies during a search and rescue.”

The Sentry was treated just as any other aircraft operating in the airspace, and carried a transponder, enabling air traffic controllers to know its location and altitude.

“Alaska is leading the way in drone research with a level of professionalism that our entire aviation community is known for,” said Commissioner Ryan Anderson of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “This is a professional pilot safely operating an aircraft in controlled airspace at an international airport.”

Read more about University of Alaska and large drones:

Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.


Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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Tags: drone integrationlarge droneslarge drones at airportsUniversity of Alask Fairbanks