[Avionics Today 08-13-2014] The FAA announced operational status for the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) testing site. Virginia is the last of the agency's six UAS testing sites nationwide to achieve operational status.
Aeryon's Sky Ranger UAS will be used at the Virginia Tech testing site. Photo: Aeryon
Virginia's testing site is part of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), a coalition of academic, government and aviation industry organizations in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey that are testing commercial UAS operations. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta attended a Virginia Tech commercial UAS demonstration to launch the opening of the last of the six testing site. Virginia Tech's UAS research team conducted a demonstration involving the Smart Road Flyer multi-rotor UAS filming a simulated accident scene on a test-bed "smart road" highway managed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
“We have undertaken the challenge of safely integrating a new and exciting technology into the busiest, most complex airspace in the world,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The six test sites are going to play a key role in helping us meet that challenge."
Along with the Smart Road Flyer, the FAA has granted Virginia Tech seven Certificates of Authorization (COA) for two years to commercially operate the Aeryon Sky Ranger, MANTRA2, Sig Rascal and two AVID EDF-8 micro UASs. Testing operations by the MAAP sites will include agricultural UAS spraying operations, procedures for integration of UAS flights in towered airspace and developing training procedures for aerial surveillance.
The agency is also currently soliciting participation from industry experts and university research teams for its new Center of Excellence (COE) for UAS. The COE will study the development of UAS sense and avoid technology, compatibility with Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations and the development of training and certification procedures for UAS pilots. Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, lawmakers mandated that the FAA establish the COE to help accelerate the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA intends to support this COE over the next 10 years with minimum funding of $500,000 per year.