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Drone use on commission agenda

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Cedar Key City Commission will consider a request to allow George George T. Lewis Airport to be used by drones ␣ similar to those used by the military in Afghanistan and Iraq ␣ to conduct seagrass bed research.

Dr. Paul Carlson Jr. of the Florida Marine Research Institute, will make a presentation on the project and ask for a letter of support from the city to the Federal Aviation Administration. The Levy County Commission agreed in its Oct. 4 meeting to sup- port the project on the condition he also win Cedar Key city official’s approval.

The BAT-4 and SIERRA drones will be using special cameras to seek seagrass beds and coral reefs around Horse Key and North Key. It’s part of a test to use drones to monitor resources at a lower cost.

"It’s similar technology but no weapons," Carlson told the county commissioners.

Carlson said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would like to launch the drones from the Cedar Key airport because of the airport’s close location to the 945,000 acres of sea grass beds that are part of the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve.

The drones would be launched April 9-20 and November 2-14. The BAT-4 will fly on a Monday- Wednesday-Friday schedule while the SIERRA will fly on a Tuesday-Thursday schedule.

Carlson said the flights would go no higher than 3,000 feet and most likely occur 1,000 feet above land and water.

The commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.