LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six states to develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the unmanned aircraft's march into U.S. skies.
The FAA announced Monday the sites will be based in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.
The FAA does not allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015. Officials concede it may take longer.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says safety is the first priority in moving drones into U.S. airspace.
NEWS RELEASE FROM THE FAA:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - After a rigorous 10-month selection process involving 25 proposals from 24 states, the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators across the country.
In selecting the six test site operators, the FAA considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk. In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs.
A brief description of the six test site operators and the research they will conduct into future UAS use are below:
-University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.
-State of Nevada. Nevada’s project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant’s research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada’s selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.
-New York’s Griffiss International Airport. Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aide in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.
-North Dakota Department of Commerce. North Dakota plans to develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology. This applicant will also conduct human factors research. North Dakota’s application was the only one to offer a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.
-Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.
-Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.
Across the six applicants, the FAA is confident that the agency’s research goals of System Safety & Data Gathering, Aircraft Certification, Command & Control Link Issues, Control Station Layout & Certification, Ground & Airborne Sense & Avoid, and Environmental Impacts will be met. Each test site operator will manage the test site in a way that will give access to parties interested in using the site. The FAA’s role is to ensure each operator sets up a safe testing environment and to provide oversight that guarantees each site operates under strict safety standards.
From the start, the FAA recognized it was important to have requirements ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are protected at the test sites. Among other requirements, test site operators must comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment.
Under the current law, test site operations will continue until at least February 13, 2017.
NEWS RELEASE FROM GOVERNOR SANDOVAL'S OFFICE:
CARSON CITY, NV – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced that Nevada has been selected as one of six locations to be a center for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) development in the United States. As a UAV development site, the most likely economic forecast shows that there could be thousands of jobs for UAS direct employees with an average wage of approximately $62,000; an estimated $2.5 billion in economic impact in present dollars; and an estimated $125 million in annual state and local tax revenue.
“Being selected as one of six sites for UAV development in the country is a historic moment for Nevada,” Governor Brian Sandoval said. “With the climate and air space of Nevada, we are uniquely equipped to help expand the development of UAVs. We have also partnered with private industry and academia to establish the curriculum necessary to create the UAS civilian workforce of the future in Nevada. Our state has been preparing for this selection and we are ready to enter this new era of aviation history. I thank Senator Reid for his tireless work on this issue and the opportunity to work together on this momentous day for our state."
The selection follows Nevada’s application, submitted to the FAA in May of 2013. Nevada’s application included the state as the direct applicant, and a 28 member team including the Nevada System of Higher Education, the Nevada National Guard, Bowhead Systems, Navigator Development and Drone America. Team members, who represented a cross-section of public and private partners, industry and academic leaders, within the northern and southern regions of the state, identified three Test Ranges and four test sites in the State’s Application.
“This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy,” said Senator Harry Reid. “Nevada has long been a leader in the UAS Industry, and no state makes a better candidate than ours. With this application approval, Nevada will continue to lead in new and innovative technologies of the 21st century, along with creating a large and profitable industry. I appreciate the work of all those involved and I look forward to working with Governor Sandoval to ensure a successful implementation of the award, and subsequent creation of the testing sites in Nevada.”
In 2012, Senator Reid led passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, establishing the Federal Aviation Administration program to begin testing for the integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles--commonly referred to as drones--into the National Airspace System. Awarding Nevada the FAA test sites will have far reaching implications on the economy of Nevada. The range of jobs created includes, but is not limited to: teachers, machinists, aircraft mechanics, software developers, electrical engineers, and human resource professionals.
“The FAA designation of Nevada as a UAS Test Site is an incredible step forward for the State of Nevada,” said Steve Hill, Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “It allows us to establish a leadership role and be at the forefront of a new and important future industry. The job creation and economic impact will be significant - growing during the testing phase and expanding as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) becomes a commercial industry. We look forward to working with the FAA and other Test Sites to develop an industry that is safe and secure while creating good jobs and providing the benefits that stem from commercial applications. I want to thank everyone who directly worked to make this a reality, and I also want to thank elected officials and communities throughout Nevada for their unwavering support.”