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Fort Drum commander talks land use study’s impact on wind turbine projects, drones

FORT DRUM – The post’s commander said the results of a developing land study could be key as the post assesses how wind turbines affect its aviation training and use of drones.

“We all have to live here together, so we want to see green windmills and things, but you know we have to look at the blind spots,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister.

Among the areas being reviewed during the Fort Drum Joint Land Use Study is energy development, which includes wind turbines.

Turbines have raised some concerns for their effects on radar systems for the post and groups such as the National Weather Service.

“We can’t sit around and do handwaves and talk about it. You gotta get into the technical side. Forming up these little technical committees to show the specifics is the only way you’re going to have cooperation, accommodation; we have to accommodate each other,” Gen. Bannister said.

The general said he wanted the division’s units to use their Gray Eagle, Shadow and Raven drone aircraft more in the north country, like it does when deployed overseas. He added that the Air Force uses its MQ-9 Reaper drone with fewer restrictions.

“That’s what I’m more interested in – using our systems here like we use them in combat. Why tie our hands at home?” Gen. Bannister said. “We don’t have our hands tied in combat.”

Gen. Bannister said the post was also working with the Federal Aviation Administration on some of the use issues.

About 100 soldiers from Delta Company, 10th Aviation Regiment, which flies the 3,600-pound Gray Eagle drone, are in Kuwait supporting forces fighting against ISIS in Iraq.

In addition to energy development, the study will look at 25 compatibility areas in a 30-mile radius around the post, with a goal of providing recommendations for future growth and activity for the post and civilian community.

The study is being administered by the Development Authority of the North Country and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment.

Additional meetings about the study are planned this summer for researchers to get more public comment and to release their findings. Details about the study can be found at http://wdt.me/danc-study.