FAA Delays Plans for UAS Test Sites
By Stephanie Levy
28 August 2012
The Federal Aviation Administration’s 12 Aug. deadline for establishing six nationwide UAS test sites came and went with no announcement. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 mandated those sites as part of the establishment of that pilot program to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System by 2015. In response, AUVSI President and CEO Michael Toscano sent a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Acting Administrator of the FAA Michael Huerta, urging them to still take action and open the site selection process.
“In addition to public uses, UAS have tremendous commercial potential as well,” Toscano writes. “The demand from both the public and commercial sector also means significant job creation potential here in the United States.”
The FAA’s delay also has meaning for state test sites that were already developed in anticipation of the administration’s announcement. In August, Ohio launched the Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center and Test Complex, a $1.5 million testing center. Dick Honeywell, vice president of Aerospace for the Dayton Development Coalition, says the center is currently in the midst of looking at infrastructure needs to support an operational UAS test environment by January 2013.
“It’s our intent to provide the capabilities to allow the FAA to work out the critical technical issues, sense and avoid and others,” Honeywell says.
Now that the FAA has delayed the announcement of UAS test sites, officials with the Dayton Development Coalition say they’re trying to support the agency in developing the standards and capabilities for integration.
“Those [requests] sometimes go on a different timeline: They may be accelerated or they may be delayed,” says Joe Zeis, executive vice president and chief strategic officer for the Dayton Development Coalition. “The point of the test center is in some ways to be able to decouple that and still provide the services, provide the necessary developments of spectrum and airspace capabilities for the FAA to move forward.”
The state is also partnering with Indiana to seek FAA designation as one of the six nationwide test sites.