Nevada’s unmanned aircraft systems test site is ready to conduct “vital research” into integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s civil airspace system, the FAA announced yesterday. The FAA granted Nevada a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use an Insitu ScanEagle UAS at Desert Rock Airport in Mercury. With the approval, Nevada is the third of six UAS test sites to become operational.
At Desert Rock Airport, a private field owned and operated by the Department of Energy, the ScanEagle will fly at or below 3,000 feet, monitored by a visual observer and mission commander. The research in Nevada will focus on UAS standards and operations, as well as operator standards and certification requirements.
Testing at the site will also look at how ATC procedures will evolve with the introduction of UASs into the civil environment and how these aircraft will integrate with the NextGen National Airspace System.
In related news, the FAA approved the first commercial UAS operation over land today, granting a waiver for oil company BP to fly an AeroVironment Puma AE for aerial surveys in Alaska. The Puma AE, a hand-launched UAS with a nine-foot wingspan, will be used to check pipelines and other infrastructure on Alaska’s North Slope.