Business & GA, Commercial, Military

FAA Issues Special Certification for Nighthawk IV UAS

By Woodrow Bellamy III | October 15, 2013
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FAA has issued a special airworthiness certificate for the Nighthawk IV unmanned aircraft system (UAS), a micro UAS produced by Applied Research Associates (ARA). 
[ARA’s Nighthawk IV UAS. Photo, courtesy of ARA.]
The special certification allows ARA to begin operating the UAS over the airspace at its Randolph, Vt., facility. The company will use the certificate for research and development purposes as well as demonstrations for potential customers and crew training.
“The FAA certification process lasted approximately six months from the time ARA submitted its initial flight area location and system description with special emphasis on safety systems, crew training and maintenance procedures,” said Bob Quinn, division manager of unmanned and security products at ARA. 
“ARA submitted the documentation, answered numerous questions, visited the FAA for a formal review and hosted a two day final certification where all the paperwork was finalized and each aircraft was flown in the presence of the FAA inspectors,” Quinn added.
Currently, only law enforcement, government agencies and universities have FAA approval to operate UAS such as the Nighthawk under a COA within restricted airspace. Quinn said ARA foresees agencies and universities using the Nighthawk for search and rescue, border patrol, highway maintenance surveillance and hazmat monitoring for chemicals and radiation among other civilian missions. 
The Nighthawk comes in two configurations, a $50,000 version featuring a single Nighthawk with a ground control station, and an $80,000 two plane system with price variations based on the camera systems and detection capability selected. 
Certification was issued for the fourth generation version of the Nighthawk, which features a new autopilot and integrated cameras which allow for automated target tracking. 
Training time has also been reduced to just four hours for new users with the inclusion of a simplified fingertip navigation function on the ground control station, ARA said. 
According to Quinn, typical non-military users operating under a COA will fly the Nighthawk below 500 feet and out to distances as far as a “strong pair of binoculars can see.”
“This proven technology can improve results and decrease costs in traffic accident investigations, search and rescue, drug smuggling, agricultural assessments, flood damage, bridge inspections and many other civilian applications,” said Rob Sues, ARA’s CEO.

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