The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is moving steadily ahead to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the largest, most complex air traffic systems in the world. 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.
The 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 we transition to a system featuring NextGen technologies and procedures.
While the selection of these test sites will not allow immediate access to the national airspace system for commercial and civil purposes, data and other information related to the operation of UAS that is generated by the six test site operators will help the FAA answer key research questions such as solutions for “sense and avoid,” command and control, ground control station standards and human factors, airworthiness, lost link procedures and the interface with the air traffic control system. This data will help the FAA to develop regulations and operational procedures for future commercial and civil use of the NAS.
The test sites will be located at the University of Alaska, State of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M – Corpus Christi and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).
The six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and 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.
Each test site operator will manage the use and scheduling of the test site in a way that will give access to parties interested in using the site. 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.
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