FAA Declares Sixth and Final UAS Test Site Operational

 - August 13, 2014, 4:37 PM
The FAA granted Virginia Tech seven COAs to operate aircraft including the Aeryon SkyRanger, shown here. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The FAA announced that the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site Virginia Polytechnic Institute will manage is cleared to start flying aircraft. The Virginia Tech site is the last of the six UAS test sites the FAA selected in December to begin operations.

The agency on August 13 said that it granted Virginia Tech seven two-year certificates of authorization (COAs) to operate the Smart Road Flyer, eSPAARO (Electric Small Platform for Autonomous Aerial Research Operations), Aeryon SkyRanger, Mantra2, Sig Rascal and two AVID EDF-8 small fixed-and rotary-wing unmanned aircraft.

To mark the occasion, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other officials with the FAA and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership viewed a demonstration of the Smart Road Flyer, a multi-rotor UAS being developed to support research in vehicle and highway systems. During the flight, the aircraft filmed a simulated accident scene on the “smart road” highway testbed managed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

UAS flights will take place at test areas in Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. The research will eventually include agricultural survey and spray equipment testing and development of aeronautical procedures for integrating unmanned aircraft in towered airspace, the FAA said.

Congress directed the agency to designate six national UAS test ranges in the FAA reauthorization act of 2012. The FAA announced the award of the first test-site COA to the North Dakota Department of Commerce on April 21. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks test site followed on May 5; the state of Nevada on June 9; Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on June 20; Griffiss International Airport, N.Y., on August 7; and finally Virginia Tech.