MAYPORT, Fla. – Residents near the Mayport Naval Station have until Oct. 1 to file comments on a draft study that says there will be no significant environmental impact on the area if Mayport becomes a home base for a drone program.
Mayport is one of three bases under consideration for the basing and maintenance of the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System. According to the Navy, a launch and recovery site for four drones on the base, as well as a maintenance hub for up to four more unmanned aircraft, would be established.
The MQ-4C Triton drones can fly about 24 hours at a time and survey 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.
Key West Naval Air Station and the NASA Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, are also under consideration.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in April to outline why he thinks Florida is the best choice for the new squadron.
In his letter to Mabus, Nelson cited the state’s proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and the ongoing unmanned aircraft operations already being performed there as reasons why one of the two Florida bases should be chosen.