After a rigorous 10-month selection process, the FAA has announced the six U.S. states that will host sites for testing commercial-built drones. It's an important next step for developing the rules and standards under which drones will fly in U.S airspace.
The Federal Aviation Administration received 25 proposals from 24 states for the research and testing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The agency considered a number of criteria, including geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, aviation experience, and risk.
The six sites chosen include Alaska (University of Alaska), Nevada (State of Nevada), New York (New York's Griffiss International Airport), North Dakota (North Dakota Department of Commerce), Texas (Texas A&M University), and Virginia (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)).
Each institute will focus on particular research goals. For example, Griffiss International will investigate the impact of drones on air traffic congestion, while Texas A&M will develop standards for testing drones' airworthiness.
Once the tests begin, pilots will be notified through announcements about where the test drones are being flown.
The FAA explains more:
Each test site operator will manage the test site in a way that will give access to parties interested in using the site. The FAA's role is to ensure each operator sets up a safe testing environment and to provide oversight that guarantees each site operates under strict safety standards.
From the start, the FAA recognized it was important to have requirements ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are protected at the test sites. Among other requirements, test site operators must comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual's right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment.
Test site operations will continue until at least February 13, 2017.
Image: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.