Just last week FAA officials announced the opening of the unmanned aircraft systems test site at Griffiss Airfield in Rome, New York, and on Wednesday the FAA has announced the opening of another test site in Blacksburg, Virginia.
According to FAA administrator Michael Huerta, the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site program, headquartered at Virginia Tech is now fully operational.
Huerta, along with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and leaders from Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey, was on hand at the Virginia Smart Road in Blacksburg on Wednesday to observe the inaugurale simulation of Virginia Tech engineers using a drone, to gather information at a mock highway accident scene.
The university has been granted seven Certificates of Authorization for the next two years, and will be sharing the airfield with partners Rutgers University and the University of Maryland.
“Early in this process, the Commonwealth of Virginia realized how vital unmanned aircraft systems testing is for building a new Virginia economy focused on innovation, diversification, and new technology that will enable Virginia to compete on a global scale,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “We publicly pledged support to this effort, and then backed up those words with funding. It is gratifying to see our work has made the mid-Atlantic region a leader in unmanned aircraft system research.”
Wednesday’s announcement marks the opening of the final FAA test site outlined in its Roadmap to UAS Integration, published last fall.
The other five official sites include the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex in Fairbanks Alaska, Griffiss Airfield in Rome, New York, Desert Rock Airport in Mercury, Nevada and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
The FAA still has a long way to go before drones can be safely integrated into the national airspace, but it is encouraging to see them check something off their to-do list.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta via fedscoop.com: