|A new PrecisionHawk drone. Photo: PrecisionHawk.
[Avionics Today 05-07-2015] PrecisionHawk has entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with the FAA to advance the research around Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) across rural areas. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the partnership at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference in Atlanta, Ga., taking place this week. PrecisionHawk, joining CNN and BNSF Railway, will be the only UAV manufacturer in this partnership forged under the Pathfinder program, an operational concept validation set up by the FAA to help integrate commercial drones into the U.S. national airspace.
"Even as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft, we must continue to actively look for future ways to expand non-recreational UAS uses," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. "This new initiative involving three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS industry."
The partnership will leverage PrecisionHawk's work in the global agriculture landscape to formulate a framework for various types of UAVs — fixed wing and multi-rotor — to operate in the areas of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries. The company will also test Low Altitude Tracking & Avoidance System (LATAS), its traffic management system for UAVs. Testing will include on-aircraft transponders as well as LATAS traffic management ground-based hardware and software. By introducing an operational tracking system that works with any UAV platform, the FAA and PrecisionHawk can safely test operations beyond visual line of sight in low-risk, non-populated areas, such as farmland.
PrecisionHawk will begin testing in coordination with the six designated UAS test sites with the goal to guide regulations to include this type of flight activity for all UAS in the future. PrecisionHawk will provide the FAA with Research and Development (R&D) test flights and test data to assist with regulations around UAS integration.