Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce hosts presentation on unmanned aircraft

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 4:52 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce (GFCC) hosted its virtual weekly business luncheon on Tuesday, November 10th with guest speaker Dr. Catherine F. Cahill, Director of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The topic of this meeting was “Going Beyond – Unmanned Aircraft in Interior Alaska.”

Cahill presented on the nature of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). “They’re commonly known as drones, and we really don’t like that appellation because it implies that there’s no intelligence. When we’re flying an unmanned aircraft, we always have a pilot in the loop.”

Cahill’s presentation included information on various projects ACUASI is currently working on, including partnerships with Transport Canada Operations, testing “Beyond-Line-of-Sight” operations, and using 45-megapixel oceanic images combined with artificial intelligence to locate North Atlantic Right Whales in shipping lanes.

An ultimate goal Cahill discussed going forward is for a UAS to monitor the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. “Our goal is, under Beyond, within the next 4 years, to fly the entire Trans-Alaska Pipeline.”

She explained that ACUASI is “constantly testing new aircraft and new unmanned aircraft to see what fits for various missions. What can work in Alaska? We have a unique environment.”

Benefits of ACUASI for Alaska that Cahill mentioned include potentially increased ability to safely, inexpensively transport cargo to regions of the state,

At the meeting, the Chamber’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Marisa Sharrah, announced that she would be departing GFCC at the end of the year to take a role with Foundation Health Partners. “Being a CEO of the Fairbanks Chamber has been an incredibly rewarding and simply amazing opportunity”, she said, adding, “I look forward to helping the new CEO transition successfully into their new role.”

The full video of the virtual luncheon can be found here.

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