Thursday, March 28, 2013

Interest in UAV test sites high

The Federal Aviation Administration has received 50 applications from 37 states for its nationwide competition to select six research and test sites for integrating unmanned aircraft systems with manned aircraft. Some states have pooled their resources with neighbors. Getting a test-site designation will help communities build a UAS research and development and manufacturing cluster or expand an existing one. Sites will be evaluated based on geographic and climatic diversity, ground infrastructure, research needs, population and air traffic density, according to FAA spokesman Les Dorr. FAA drone rules will govern such things as certification of aircraft, training and medical checks for operators, allocation of bandwidth for command and control, and standards for automated systems that unmanned aircraft use to sense danger and avoid collisions, Dorr said. The FAA is coordinating its efforts with the Department of Defense, NASA and Congress, as well as public agencies. Currently, the FAA has issued only a few hundred certificates for drone operators, but it forecasts that as many as 7,500 unmanned aircraft could be flying over the U.S. within five years, Dorr said. To ensure the drones are being used properly, the FAA plans to test the aircraft at six sites, which will be selected by the end of the year. (Sources: Defense Communities, Stars and Stripes, 03/28/13) Gulf Coast note: The Gulf Coast region has a high level of UAV activity, including building portions of the Global Hawk and Fire Scout in Moss Point, Miss.