The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced six operators that will create unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test sites throughout the US.
The selection of the University of Alaska, the State of Nevada, New York's Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) follows a rigorous ten-month selection process comprising 25 proposals from 24 states.
As part of a long-term initiative to enable integration of UAS in the national airspace, the site selection process considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research requirements, airspace use, safety, aviation, experience and risk.
US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that "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."
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said safety continues to be the first priority as the agency moves forward with unmanned systems integration into US airspace"
"We have successfully brought new technology into the nation's aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft," Huerta said.
The University of Alaska will help in development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation, while Nevada, Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, and Virginia Tech will study standards and requirements for operators, develop safety system requirements and conduct UAS failure mode testing, respectively.
The Griffiss International Airport will conduct research on how drones and commercial aircraft will sense and avoid collision with each other in congested airspace, while North Dakota Department of Commerce will develop airworthiness data and reliable links that share information between drones and other aircraft.
The test site operations, under the current law, are expected to continue until at least 13 February 2017.
Image: A US Air Force's MQ-9 Reaper UAS flies in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of USAF Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson.