FAA has selected Kansas State University Salina to test certification standards for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), part of an effort to begin creating industry standards for certifying unmanned systems for commercial applications within the National Airspace System (NAS).
The university signed a memorandum of agreement with FAA on Aug. 29, under which K-State Salina will use its own unmanned aircraft to begin validating industry standards for small UAS, which are those unmanned aircraft that weigh 55 pounds or less. The standards will help the agency determine the airworthiness of small UAS.
Current unmanned systems industry standards for small UAS were created by ATSM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, a group known globally for developing international voluntary consensus standards.
"This project is of national importance in that this could well be the first small UAS to obtain an FAA airworthiness certificate for routine operations in our national airspace system here in the lower 48," said Kurt Barnhart, professor and head of the department of aviation and executive director of the university's Applied Aviation Research Center at K-State Salina.
Barnhart said the airworthiness certificate will likely be developed as a "restricted" certification similar to those issued for agricultural aircraft, "meaning that these vehicles would be restricted from operating above certain locations."
The agreement is the first of its kind between FAA and a university, and should help both FAA and the unmanned systems industry to determine how standards for small UAS need to be further developed.
"Successful certification of a small unmanned aircraft system using the F38 standards as a certification basis would be a giant step toward commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system," said Mark Blanks, unmanned aircraft systems program manager at K-State Salina.