FAA declares New York UAS test site operational

By Patrick C. Miller | August 08, 2014

The Griffiss International Airport unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site in Rome, N.Y., has become the fifth of six FAA-designated test sites to go operational.

The FAA said the New York site is ready to conduct research “vital to integrating UAS into the national airspace system (NAS).”

The Griffiss test site will evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using different types of sensors, including visual, thermal and multispectral equipment. The research will enhance current methods of monitoring crops and provide additional information for continuing field research efforts.

“We are accomplishing two important missions with the launch of this test site,” said Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the NAS is our number-one priority, but the agricultural research performed in Rome also may have far-reaching benefits to farmers in New York and across the nation.”

The FAA granted the Griffiss International Airport team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use a PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. The Lancaster Platform weighs approximately three pounds and has a wingspan of four feet.

The site’s projects include using UAS for the detection of insects, weeds, diseases, crop characteristics, crop biomass and background soil characteristics in two farm fields. Flights will take place at or below 400 feet, and will last up to 60 minutes from takeoff to landing.

They will also collect geospatially-referenced imagery as part of the agricultural research. Eventually, the site also will manage unmanned agricultural research flights from Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

In addition, the Griffiss team plans to work on developing test and evaluation processes under FAA safety oversight, and conduct research on sense-and-avoid capabilities to prevent collisions with other manned and unmanned aircraft.

“The data the Griffiss team plans to acquire and share will help the FAA in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested Northeast airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The FAA was directed by Congress to select six UAS test sites. The agency is guiding these UAS programs over the next several years toward into integration into the NAS and to conduct practical research.