FAA amendment could extend UAS test sites by 5 years

By Luke Geiver | April 14, 2016

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would extend the authorization of every unmanned aircraft systems test site for an additional five years.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., introduced the amendment. Once approved, the reauthorization bill including the test site authorization amendment, would extend the presence of each test site for another five years after the test sites authorization period expires on September 30, 2017.

“The test sites have already made remarkable gains, such as nighttime operations, flying multiple aircraft in the same airspace and researching and testing aircraft up to 1,200 feet,” Hoeven said. “Nevertheless, there’s much left to do, and that will require investment and support from industry partners. Those partners will be much more likely to use the FAA test sites if they can be sure those sites will be operational beyond the end of Fiscal Year 2017.”

Northern Plains UAS Test Site:

This summer, the team at the Northern Plains UAS test site will perform a field demonstration using an Elbit fixed wing unmanned system. The UAV will be the largest ever for a precision agriculture application. NPUAS has also performed beyond visual line of sight operations, nighttime flights and worked with several industry partners on sense-and-avoid technology.

Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech:

With the help of Drone Aviation Corp.’s tethered drone, the Virginia test site team recently completed a nighttime commercial drone operation. According to DAC, the test was designed to evaluate the use of a tethered drone and advanced optical systems to provide persistent, large venue and facility monitoring and security at night. The team has also performed a UAS delivery of medical supplies from an airport to a health fair and worked on a process to drop life preservers from a UAV.

Lone Star UAS Center of Innovation & Excellence:

Working with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, the Lone Star team has helped to create a national credentialing program for commercial UAS operators. The program allows companies to certify compliance with FAA regulations along with safe flight operations. The Lone Star team also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to collaborate on UAS research. The site has performed beyond visual line of sight work, package delivery and like other test sites, will participate in a UAS in the NAS project spearheaded by NASA.

Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex:

Out of Oregon, SOAR Oregon, a non-profit economic development entity that is pushing UAS in the region, has funded the Pendleton UAS range to pursue a project it is calling the Future Farm, an unmanned aerial and automated agricultural systems proving ground located at the range. The farm can allow for product testing, manufacturing, product demos and workforce development.