The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill expected to be voted on by Congress this week or next contains a provision to extend authorization of the agency’s six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites for another three years.
On Wednesday, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced that the Senate and House agreed to an extension of the FAA Reauthorization bill through September 2017. The measure includes Hoeven’s proposal for a longer term authorization for each of the six UAS test sites, extending their authorization for three years to February 2020.
This includes the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, North Dakota; the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation in Corpus Christie, Texas; the Nevada Unmanned Aerial System Test Range in Las Vegas; the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership test site for Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey; the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in Fairbanks; and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance Inc. (NUAIR) site in Rome, New York.
“The test sites have made remarkable progress toward their mission, including nighttime operations, flying multiple aircraft in the same airspace and researching and testing aircraft up to an altitude of 1,200 feet,” Hoeven said. “Nevertheless, they still have work before them, and that will require investment and support from industry partners. If they can be sure those sites will be operational beyond the end of fiscal year 2017, those partners will have a greater incentive to use the FAA test sites.”
The FAA reauthorization bill passed by Congress in February 2012 included an amendment directing the agency to establish six test sites tasked with integrating UAS into the national airspace. The six sites were established beginning in December 2013 following a competitive process.