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Wake County Lands New Drone Tech Test Site

Drone in flight
Don McCullough
Flickr Creative Commons

The Research Triangle has been chosen to host test sites where researchers will develop drone technology in rural and suburban settings.

The wireless platform planned for Raleigh and Cary will be the third of its kind in the nation, with specialized networks also being built in New York and Salt Lake City.

“The use of the platform is specifically for researchers and innovators to try out new ideas, new protocols, new technology and new hardware in a real world scenario,” said Joe Kochan, program director of the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research Project Office.

The $24 million dollar project is a collaboration between North Carolina State University, the National Science Foundation, and industry partners. Organizers say the sites will be up and running within one year, with a full build-out completed in the next three years.

Ismail Guvenc is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at N.C. State. He’ll use the platform to explore the connections between 5G technology and drones.

“Drones will need 5G to fly safely and efficiently,” he said, “whereas 5G will need drones to expand coverage into rural areas, for after disasters [when] the existing infrastructure may not work properly.”

Organizers say the platform will enable development of a wide range of projects, from advancing drone delivery and disaster response to enhancing agricultural technology and improving air traffic control.

“It continues the RTP legacy of being a center for innovation,” said N.C. State’s Vice-Chancellor for Information Technology Marc Hoit. “It now provides a location for all those entrepreneurs and start-ups to come test their ideas on this type of infrastructure without having to spend the enormous amount of money to build out that test facility.”

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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