The Federal Aviation Administration today announced six sites where research will be conducted to test the legitimacy of drones sharing space in the sky with commercial airlines.
Today’s announcement comes after the FAA spent 10 months cutting down a list of 25 potential locations to the final six. Each testing ground will be used to research various aspects of the drones, from safety to climate issues.
This is all part of the government’s initial steps to allow for the integration of unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace. A 74-page Federal Aviation Administration report, released in November, laid out a roadmap for UAVs based on the mandates of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Seattle online giant Amazon.com will certainly be watching the results of this study closely given the company’s recently-announced plans for delivery drones that could set flight as early as 2015, depending on regulatory approval.
Here are the six sites, with the FAA’s research plans for each location:
- 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 aide 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.