The Federal Aviation Administration has selected entities in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia that will develop and test unmanned aircraft systems over the next few years.
The Congressionally mandated site operators are the University of Alaska, which will test drones across seven different climates; Griffiss International Airport in New York; the state of Nevada, which will develop standards and look closely at air traffic control issues; the North Dakota Department of Commerce, which will focus on technology; Texas A&M University; and Virginia Tech.
The 2012 FAA Reauthorization called for the integration of drones into the national airspace. In an agency report on Nov. 7 that detailed its progress and paved the path forward for integration, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta wrote “UAS integration must be accomplished without reducing existing capacity, decreasing safety, impacting current operators, or placing other airspace users or persons and property on the ground at increased risk.”
Of course, at all these test sites, safety remains the guiding force, officials said.
“Safety continues to be our first priority as we move forward with integrating unmanned aircraft systems into U.S. airspace,” Huerta said in a statement announcing the testing sites. “We have successfully brought new technology into the nation’s aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft.”
After significant development and testing, the FAA must also develop regulatory policies regarding unmanned aircraft systems. The possibility of a lengthy development phase hasn’t stopped Amazon officials, though, from announcing their intent to use a private fleet of drones for package delivery.