(December 30, 2013) Texas and five other states have been chosen to develop drone test sites, one of which is south of Fort Hood, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday.
The selection represents a step toward the use of the unmanned aircraft in the U.S.
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi was chosen to develop system requirements for drones and protocols for airworthiness testing, the FAA said.
The university has been researching drones for two years, investigating how to use them to map sea grass, detect oil spills and wildfire hotspots, monitor hurricanes and count cattle for ranchers.
The 11 Texas test sites are south of Fort Stockton, south of Fort Hood, outside College Station and several in South Texas outside Beeville and south of Corpus Christi.
Other sites will be based in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota and Virginia.
Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans for use of the unmanned aircraft, and 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, although officials concede it may take longer.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says safety is the first priority in moving drones into U.S. airspace.
Site Operators Announced Monday
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.