This video appeared on the official YouTube channel of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, or NNSS, highlighting the unique counter-unmanned aerial systems, C-UAS, research being conducted in the remote Nevada desert inside highly secure airspace.

It says that the site is the most capable and secure testing facility for UAS and C-UAS platforms, largely through being so isolated.

Port Gaston personnel say in the video that they are able to accommodate almost any type of testing involving drones or anti-drone technologies. The site offers a rare, nearly restriction-free environment for research and development to take place in a real-world setting. “We literally have the ultimate playground for national security testing,” says Jim McDonnell, Strategic Advisor for Global Security at the site. “If you can imagine it, we can do it here.”

With support from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN), the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) identified Port Gaston to provide an expansive platform to develop, characterize and demonstrate counter Unmanned Aerial System (cUAS) response in a safe, secure environment.

In early 2020, NNSS Global Security Senior Project Manager Mike Madlener began the coordination for Port Gaston, which included servicing two base camp trailers, upgrading the power systems to eliminate surface-laid cables from previous NNSS work and fiber installation for secure data transmission. The outdoor venue enables outside organizations to utilize the NNSS for UAS and cUAS testing and system verification. Now he is working to extend the airspace into a corridor that will span 16 square miles, allowing multiple groups to conduct simultaneous exercises and leveraging existing infrastructure from former operations facilities.

“This is such a unique, restricted airspace,” said Madlener, who has served with the NNSS for 21 years. “For payloads that potentially have biological-chemical harm, we’re working to counter that and develop a system that can make sure harm is eliminated. That’s why I’m here—to develop a community of shelf equipment and bring in people who have systems to test.”

The NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories recently deployed a team to Port Gaston for multiple days of UAS and cUAS testing operations. These operations included signature collection of various UAS platforms with instrumentation that spans the optical regime from visible to infrared light.

“We’re looking at what all of these UAS look like across the spectrum,” said Jeremy Wright with Sandia Labs. “We have 13 different types of UAS with different types of flights.”

Since the Port Gaston airspace is regulated by the NNSS, verification processes and procedures required for UAS flights can occur more quickly than at other testing venues. For example, conducting UAS operations in other regulated airspaces can mean that organizations are subject to restrictions due to the proximity to commercial runways, limiting testing timeframes and capabilities.

Pilots who hold an FAA Part 107 certification and work within the NNSA enterprise, other government agencies, universities and commercial entities are among the groups identified as future users of the test bed. To date, more than 200 such test flights have taken place.

Sources: YouTube; Press Release

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