FAA To Research Allowing Unmanned Aircraft Fly in National Airspace System

 - June 20, 2010, 11:46 AM

The FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., forged a cooperative research and development agreement with Bingen, Wash.-based Insitu and the New Jersey Air National Guard to study unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and to address their integration into the National Airspace System (NAS).

As part of the two-year agreement, Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing, will provide two ScanEagle unmanned aircraft and their related support hardware and data to the FAA. The FAA will conduct research to guide development of recommendations for integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the NAS.

Through the agreement, FAA researchers will be able to study and better understand UAS design, construction and functionality. Additionally, they will look at the differences in how an air traffic controller would manage an unmanned aircraft versus a manned aircraft by integrating the ScanEagle system into the technical center’s air traffic control simulations and studies.

Insitu will train FAA pilots and support staff to fly and maintain the system. The UAS flight testing will take place over the New Jersey Air National Guard’s Warren Grove Range, which is 20 miles north of the FAA’s technical center.

UASs currently fly within the NAS via certificates of authorization or FAA waivers. The waiver process is issued for public entities and determined on a case-by-case basis, with most UAS operations segregated from other air traffic. The unmanned aircraft are also allowed to fly in restricted airspace, which includes the military airspace at Warren Grove Range.