Ever since the Wright brothers innovated in the back of their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, aviation has been, at heart, a nuts-and-bolts endeavor. For all the sophisticated equipment Idaho National Laboratory’s Unmanned Aerial Systems team has at its disposal for testing high-tech cameras, radios and sensors, there is still a lot of gearhead ingenuity involved.
Here, a $500,000 high-tech surveillance camera is kept aloft on an aircraft powered by a 1/2-horsepower gasoline engine adapted from a Honda pressure washer. The launching catapult for the plane is basically an oversized potato gun.
The group operates both in Idaho Falls and at the INL Site from a base that includes a 1,000-foot paved runway, a control trailer and a newly built 1,500-square-foot hangar.