This post is the latest in the Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series, which profiles interesting information, thoughts and research into using drones, UAVs or remotely piloted vehicles for journalism and photography, that Kike learns about during his travels.
On December 30, 2013, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected six UAS test site operators that will allow the agency to develop research findings and operational experiences to help ensure the safe integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace as they transition in what they refer to as a system featuring NextGen technologies and procedures. Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia are the states that will host these research sites. On these locations, researchers will develop and test new drone technologies to fly safely the same skies shared by commercial planes.
The agency’s activities must address the needs of a diverse aviation community while ensuring current users both in the air and on the ground remain safe.
¨This is an important milestone in the history on unmanned systems integration into the national airspace,¨said Dr Jerry LeMieux., President and Founder of Unmanned Vehicle University. ¨The test sites will be used to examine operations of UAVs in the vicinity of other manned aircraft. It proves that the US government is serious about commercializing the use of UAVs. The key technologies that will be developed are sense and avoid (a UAV collision avoidance system), a reliable control link, improvement in human factors (design and training) and UAS regulations. The FAA CONOPS has already been published and mentions that unmanned aircraft will be treated almost the same as manned aircraft.¨
The FAA announced the following six applicants had been selected to operate the UAS test sites. These six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity.
- University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.
- State of Nevada. Nevada’s project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant’s research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada’s selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.
- New York’s Griffiss International Airport. Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.
- North Dakota Department of Commerce. North Dakota plans to develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology. This applicant will also conduct human factors research. North Dakota’s application was the only one to offer a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.
- Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.
“These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. In totality, these sites will help the FAA meet its UAS research goals of System Safety & Data Gathering, Aircraft Certification, Command & Control Link Issues, Control Station Layout & Certification, Ground & Airborne Sense & Avoid, and Environmental Impacts will be met. The FAA’s role is to ensure that each operator sets up a safe testing environment and to provide oversight that ensures each site operates under strict safety standards.
¨While I am encouraged that the Test Site announcement was made in 2013, many are taken aback that the California UAS Portal was not chosen,¨said Patrick Egan, editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series and Drone TV. ¨Innovators from areas with the most growth and application potential, California, Oregon and Washington are left out of the data collection matrix.¨
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