Last of six FAA UAS test sites goes operational

By Patrick C. Miller | August 20, 2014

The last of six U.S. Federal Aviation Administration-authorized test sites went operational Aug. 13 when the agency announced that the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s program is ready to conduct research.

The FAA granted Virginia Tech seven Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) for two-years. UAS models tested at the site will include the Smart Road Flyer, an eSPAARO, Aeryon Sky Ranger, MANTRA2, Sig Rascal, and two AVID EDF-8 micro UASs.

To mark the event, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, along with other FAA and MAAP officials, viewed a demonstration of the Smart Road Flyer, a low cost, low risk multi-rotor UAS being developed to support research in vehicle and highway systems. During the flight, the Flyer filmed a simulated accident scene on the “smart road” full-scale test-bed highway managed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

UAS operations will occur at test areas in Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. Research in the three states will eventually include agricultural spray equipment testing, development of aeronautical procedures for integration of UAS flights in a towered airspace and developing training and operational procedures for aeronautical surveys of agriculture

“We have undertaken the challenge of safely integrating a new and exciting technology into the busiest, most complex airspace in the world,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The six test sites are going to play a key role in helping us meet that challenge.

 “Having all six national test sites up and running will give us more and better data to help expand the safe use of unmanned aircraft into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The FAA selected six congressionally-mandated test sites on December 30, 2013.  The agency is working with the test sites to guide their research programs to help the FAA safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.

Virginia Tech is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) consisting of academia, government, industry, economic development agencies, and non-profit organizations throughout Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland.