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FAA Public Meeting Notes

Elizabeth Soltys, manager of unmanned aircraft systems test sites for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, explained the early interest and evolution of a UAS test site this week at an event in North Dakota.
By Luke Geiver | September 24, 2015

Elizabeth Soltys, manager of unmanned aircraft systems test sites for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, explained the early interest and evolution of a UAS test site this week at an event in North Dakota.

Prior to the selection of the final six FAA sites, Soltys and her team received 25,000-plus pages of proposals from entities asking to be a test site. The FAA received 25 applicants from 24 states. The FAA found that 124 different research areas could be addressed at the test sites.

Since the formation of the sites, the FAA has worked with other government agencies to transfer data and research to the test sites. For example, she said, the Department of Interior has passed along pertinent information on flight training protocols

Of all the entities the FAA works with, the test sites are the most closely linked groups, she also said. Every two weeks, members from the site talk with the FAA, many of which also call or talk intermittently on a daily basis. To date, 100 COA’s have been issued at the sites.

Many of the sites are proving their worth to the large UAV industry as well. More than half of all test flight performed at the sites are above 500 feet with unmanned aircraft vehicle platforms that weight more than 55 pounds.

“A test site has in-depth industry knowledge that other players don’t have because we communicate with them so much,” she said.

Based on work already performed with its test site partners, more than 60 research papers have been created.

Although Soltys was enthusiastic about the work at test sites, specifically that work occurring in North Dakota, she did not comment on the notice of proposed rulemaking status for small UAVs, nor did she offer any insight into possible rules or regulations that could be coming. In total, her prepared remarks to the crowd were brief.