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Bermudian businessman to operate drone

Bermuda could soon be seeing the first privately-owned drone flying above the Island.

Bermudian businessman and former OBA candidate Donte Hunt has set up a new company to operate an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft which, he says, can provide aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.

And he believes it could help “in drug interdiction, monitoring the Island's Exclusive Economic Zone, search and rescue operations and assessing post hurricane damage.”

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) can fly for 20 hours with the ability to stream back live high definition video.

Mr Hunt said: “We currently have very little idea of what is happening in the seas around us. The rapid growth in the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by governments, militaries and law enforcement agencies around the globe is testament to value of this technology.”

According to a press statement released on his behalf, “Mr Hunt has spent the last five years establishing Aerial Visual Solutions (AVS) and is now finalising details allowing him to operate an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) beyond line of sight — the highest level of certification.”

According to regulations, a licence has to be issued by the Bermuda Department of Civil Aviation.

Previously, the department has issued licences for helicopter cameras but not for drones.

According to the statement, “Mr Hunt has secured exclusive altitude airspace from Bermuda's Air Traffic Control as well as a licence in principal from the Bermuda Department of Civil Aviation, pending a live demonstration of the technology.

“In addition, he has also obtained an export licence from the US Department of Commerce — a licence is required due to the highly sensitive nature of the sophisticated equipment which poses a potential viable threat to the United States.

“He also has clearance from the US Department of State, Department of Defence and Department of Energy.

“The company's target customers are governments and militaries who have complex and intensive aerial imagery requirements.

“The Bermuda National Security and Defence Review, released in May, recommended the expansion of the Regiment's existing boat troop ‘in an enforcement role to protect the EEZ and improve internal security'.

But Mr Hunt believes that would be too costly and inefficient, adding: “With unmanned aerial support it would mean utilising just one boat for intercepting suspect vessels while using a drone for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“In terms of performance, an aerial perspective is far more effective in the detection of targets than operating from a sea level perspective.

“The size of a boat required to operate effectively offshore would make it completely incapable of conducting stealth operations which is necessary for gathering evidence.

“The most immediate advantage of UAV's with respect to manned vehicles is cost. UAVs of this type are much less expensive to build, maintain and operate, yet they yield high performance results and can be used for many different and useful applications.

“The flight duration also exceeds a manned aircraft capability and they are quieter than conventional aircraft.

“They really are the most cost-effective and sensible solution to the issue of patrolling the seas around our Island.”

The UAV would be operated from a Ground Control Station by a crew consisting of four personnel — a pilot in command, a payload operator and two engineers who are responsible for maintenance and airworthiness of the aircraft.

Mr Hunt said AVS would offer scholarships to Kansas State University “with a view that these local recipients will assume an operator role within AVS as a UAV pilot and engineer”.

He added: “The scholarships would include obtaining a manned aircraft private pilot's licence. This would be a great opportunity for young Bermudians to commence an exciting career within a rapidly growing industry.”

The UAV has a wingspan of 10.8 feet, can be launched from virtually anywhere using a pneumatic catapult and can land like a conventional airplane, can deploy a parachute or land into a specially designed net. It has a cruising speed of between 70 kph and 80 kph, a maximum level speed of 130 kph and a maximum ceiling of 15,000 feet.

“It carries the latest in camera technology capable of high definition daytime and nighttime imaging with the ability to identify a target the size of a milk carton from an altitude that is undetectable from maritime and terrestrial targets,” concluded the statement.

Bermudian Donte Hunt has established a new business to operate a drone that can fly for 20 hours, streaming back live high definition video to the Island.

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Published July 03, 2014 at 11:53 am (Updated July 03, 2014 at 11:54 am)

Bermudian businessman to operate drone

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