PALO PINTO – Palo Pinto County Commissioners on Monday joined in a funding agreement to help get a company’s planned unmanned aerial systems operations off the ground.
The county agreed to provide a $22,500 loan to Addison-based UASWERX to help it develop and begin operating commercial drone training, testing and flight operations at Mineral Wells Regional Airport.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to join in the funding pact following a brief pitch from interim Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce President Raymond Greenwood.
With the county’s inclusion, the loan amounts agreed to by the City of Mineral Wells, Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation and Envision Mineral Wells are reduced from $30,000 each to $22,500. The loans will be distributed to the company in three installments and are performance based, according to the three-year funding agreement.
Greenwood said the monies will be kept and monitored in a separate airport fund account so that they will not be co-mingled with other airport or general city operational funds.
UASWERX is obligated under the agreement to establish the “Mineral Wells Innovation Zone” to allow for UAS testing up to 4,000 feet within an area generally described as north to Graford, south to Brazos, east to Weatherford and west to Palo Pinto. Zone establishment is to occur through a designation of the airport as a “concurrent manned-unmanned operation;” securing FAA approval as an unmanned testing and area outside the Metroplex area’s restricted flight space; and securing designation of the UAS space as an “alert area” for unusual flight operations.
Additionally, the company has agreed to establish a “Mineral Wells UAS WERX UAS Testing Center to enable training, testing and related flight operations and the curriculum necessary to provide training activities.
UASWERX has agreed to repay the loans within 18 months after it becomes operational, which could be extended with permission of the participating entities.
Because of its ideal location, establishing Mineral Wells Regional Airport as a regional commercial drone testing and training center has been a major focus and effort of the airport, city and Envision Mineral Wells through the chamber and is expected to draw major interest from UAS manufacturers and companies engaged in commercial unmanned flight operations.