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Monday, June 9, 2014

FAA Opens Third UAS Test Site

Woodrow Bellamy III 

[Avionics Today June 9, 2014] The FAA has approved the opening of its third congressionally mandated Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) testing site at Desert Rock Airport in Nevada.   

Researchers at the Nevada location will fly the ScanEagle UAS at or below 3,000 feet, and will use site operations to evaluate the ability for unmanned aircraft to fly safely at an airport. Upon authorizing the opening of the new site, the FAA granted the state of Nevada a two-year Certificate of Authorization (COA) to use the ScanEagle for testing and research. 
 
“The UAS test sites will help us identify operational goals as well as safety issues we must consider when expanding the use of unmanned aircraft into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
 
Air Traffic Control (ATC) procedures involving the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) will also be conducted at the Nevada location.  Test flights involving the ScanEagle will be monitored by a visual observer and a mission commander, the FAA said. 
 
The opening of the Nevada location follows the FAA's recent announcement that it will consider allowing the use of small UAS for filming feature films and television shows. 
 
Both announcements are groundbreaking, showing that the FAA is trying to make a concentrated effort on integrating UAS into the NAS for commercial purposes.  The agency continues to receive criticism from groups such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) for moving too slow with the integration process.   
 
However, safety is the central issue in the FAA's concerns with drafting standards to regulate the use of UAS in the NAS.  During AUVSI 2014, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA's UAS Integration Office, cited several recent accidents involving improper operations of UAS in civil airspace as reasons for the delays. 
 

"This industry is growing exponentially, and we are working hard to make sure it does so safely," said Huerta.  

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