The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that the first of six test sites that will perform unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research is now operational.
The FAA granted the North Dakota Department of Commerce authorization to begin using a Draganflyer X4ES at its Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site ahead of a deadline set by Congress. The authorization is effective for two years, and operations are planned to start in the beginning of May.
“North Dakota has really taken the lead in supporting the growing unmanned aircraft industry,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a statement. “We look forward to the contributions they and the other test sites will make toward our efforts to ensure the safe and efficient integration of UAS into our nation’s skies.”
The FAA said the main goal of the North Dakota site’s initial operations is to show that UAS can check soil quality and the status of crops to support agriculture research studies.
“These data will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We believe the test site programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft and fostering America’s leadership in advancing this technology.”
In addition to the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the five other site operators are the University of Alaska, state of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).