Jacksonville, Key West being considered as Navy surveillance drone sites


Jacksonville and Key West are two sites being considered by the Navy as possible locations for its new squadron of unmanned aerial surveillance drones.

The three sites the Navy is considering are Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Naval Air Station Key West in the Florida Keys and the NASA Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

The announcement comes from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is touting Florida as the best choice.

“Both installations meet the requirements established by the Department of the Navy as current operations at both airfields are compatible with MQ-4C operations, both airfields provide direct access to overwater operating areas without land overflight, and both installations have existing airfield facilities with the capacity and capability to meet the start-up and on-going operation schedule of the MQ-4C,” said Nelson in letter to the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

In other words, both Key West and Jacksonville are in close proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and there are ongoing unmanned aircraft operations already being performed at the Florida sites.

The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle is capable of flying for more than 24 hours at a time and surveying over 2.7 million square miles in a single mission. It’s used to provide sailors and Naval officers with real-time intelligence and surveillance, as well as assist in maritime search and rescue operations.

In addition to eight Triton drones, up to 400 sailors and their families would also be stationed at the Navy’s selected location.




Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


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