The proposed Verizon drone testing facility near Cathedral Park and the St. Johns Bridge has been grounded following outcry from neighbors, environmentalists, native tribes and many others.
Earlier this month, the Port of Portland said it was cancelling a pending lease with a Verizon subsidiary Skyword for about seven acres that is downriver from the bridge and the Green Acres eco-industrial park.
“Skyward has ended our discussions with the Port of Portland regarding the North Bradford location,” the company announced on its website. “During the course of our discussions with the Port, we discovered other locations that would provide more immediate operational use.
The company had said it would fly drones over the river about once a day — for up to 90 minutes at a time — for testing drone integrations for civilian commercial use cases including agricultural research, powerline inspections, natural disaster response, and wildfire prevention.
Skyward’s software helps the drones comply with federal airspace regulations. Verizon acquired the company in 2017. According to its website, the company is building and testing the technology needed to connect drones to wireless networks at scale.
A coalition quickly came together to oppose the plan. Among their objections were the noise, potential harm to wildlife (specifically, peregrine falcons that live on the bridge), as well as the intrusion. Folks were also suspicious of whether the drones would be testing surveillance or if the technology would be used ultimately by the military.
Those against the plan protested outside Skyward’s downtown offices, created a Change.Org petition, as well as organized a protest flotilla on the Willamette River under the bridge on Nov. 1.
They also came in full force during a Port of Portland listening session. You can watch the video below.
Nathan is an award-winning freelance content marketing producer (words, video, audio, strategy). He also is an award-winning newspaper reporter. He has an MBA and a BA in Editorial Journalism. He is a past director of SEMpdx’s digital marketing conference, and past director on the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee. He has two great kids, likes to sail, ride his road bike, and make beer.