[Avionics Today May 6, 2014] The University of Alaska's Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) testing site has been granted a Certificate of Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin research on the integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System (NAS).
University of Alaska Fairbanks Pilots Mike Cook, left, and Jennifer Haney, brief a crowd assembled to watch the first UAS flight, an Aeryon Scout, conducted at the Alaska UAS research site. Photo, courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks
Alaska is the FAA's second of six testing sites to become operational, following the agency's recent approval of the Northern Plains facility in North Dakota. Researchers at the Alaskan site will focus on showing how UAS can accurately locate, identify and count large wild animals, such as caribou, reindeer, musk ox and bear for survey operations requested by the state of Alaska, the agency said.
Flights will occur at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station (LARS). The research station is located within 5 miles of Fairbanks International Airport and flights will be coordinated with Air Traffic Control (ATC).
“The test site program is forging ahead, just as we expected,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The University of Alaska Fairbanks program is important because it includes a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones, so it will give us a wealth of data to help develop appropriate safety regulations and standards.”