FAA selects six UAS test site operators in the United States, covering nine states

In a telephone news conference today, FAA Administrator Michael Heurta explained that the test sites will evaluate "what uses evolve," and consider "appropriate certificate and regulatory regimes."

The first test site is planned to be up and running in 180 days, and test site ops are due to conclude in February 2017, which incidentally is the same time the entire FAA is due for total re authorization.

Note that operators come from six states, but there are going to be test operations in at least nine states total. Some of these operators (University of Alaska and Virginia Tech) have memos that indicate joint collaboration from entities in other states.

Direct from the FAA:

After a rigorous 10-month selection process involving 25 proposals from 24 states, the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators across the country.

In selecting the six test site operators, the FAA considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk. In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs.

A brief description of the six test site operators and the research they will conduct into future UAS use are below:

  • 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.

Across the six applicants, the FAA is confident that the agency’s 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 test site in a way that will give access to parties interested in using the site. The FAA’s role is to ensure each operator sets up a safe testing environment and to provide oversight that guarantees each site operates under strict safety standards.

From the start, the FAA recognized it was important to have requirements ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are protected at the test sites. Among other requirements, test site operators must comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment. 

Under the current law, test site operations will continue until at least February 13, 2017.


Views: 1179

Comment by Gary Mortimer on December 30, 2013 at 10:52am

They have also responded to Trappys motion to dismiss http://www.suasnews.com/2013/12/26710/the-faa-responds-to-trappys-m... as the Chinese say may you live in interesting times. 

Comment by Cliff-E on December 30, 2013 at 12:26pm
Nevada sort of wins big on this one, considering they also approved Google cars on their public roads.

Comment by Ruwan on December 30, 2013 at 12:45pm
Comment by Peter Plantec on December 30, 2013 at 2:28pm
The only thing that makes me nervous about this is that i can't tell if it 's a bipartisan effort or a Republican one. If it's the latter,I seriously doubt the regulations will favor us. One can only hope. I don't mind rational regulation and certification. I do mind severe restriction. Large RC vehicles are dangerous. A big turbo can do a lot of damage. My drone could do some damage. But our sport in general seems well self regulated and most of us are reasonable people. People like the guy in North Carolina who insists on photographing through people's windows is an idiot who should be arrested. His claim that the airspace is free is nonsense. People like that ruin things for the rest of us. Lets just hope the FAA is reasonable.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on December 30, 2013 at 4:35pm

Poor Oklahoma was out, despite all those SUAS news postings.  As in all things, money gravitates towards the coasts.  The people doing the work are all going to be H1B's, no matter where it's done.

Comment by Cliff-E on December 30, 2013 at 11:06pm

Yes I'm a bit shocked CA, OK, FL and even UT didn't get anything considering the amount of R&D in those states and those states actually having UAV manufacturing/vendors.

But if you look at the details:

NY: Rome? ARL is surely involved.

VA: Big DoD industry, though Vint Hill Farms & Leesburg comes to mind for the FAA.

AK: Harsh climate, plain and simple.

TX, NV, ND: decent defense industries... but possible politically motivated?

Then again, AK, NY, VA mentioned partnerships with groups in HI, MA, NJ, OR.  

IMO, 4 of the 6 states need to recruit drone talent from the 'big' states that lost if they (the politicians of the winning states have mentioned) are going to build "their" drone economy, and the FAA's already one year behind schedule... not the best selection to kickstart a multi-billion dollar industry, but does show some geographical diversity.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on December 30, 2013 at 11:30pm

The FAA could have selected six sites the day after the announce, only dithering allowed all the others to throw their hat in the ring. What's an H1B Jack? These sites were always a place for DHS to play and the military vendors to have more room now Sandy places are closing. 

Comment by John Githens on January 4, 2014 at 4:06pm

For anyone wanting to reflect on the run-up to the FAA's announcement, you can browse this page. More may be found on this page and this page.


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

© 2020   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service