On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that the University of Alaska’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test site is now the second site (of six) to become operational. The first official flights took place this morning.
The FAA granted a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks to fly animal surveillance operations at the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex in Fairbanks, AK. The COA allows for the use of the Aeryon Scout UAS, manufactured by Ontario-based Aeryon Labs.
The main objective of the Alaskan wildlife operation is to demonstrate how UAS can accurately locate, identify, and count large wild animals, such as caribou or bear, for survey operations requested by the state of Alaska. Additionally, the new test site is located within five miles of the Fairbanks International Airport and thus stands uniquely positioned to test and evaluate procedures for coordination with air traffic controllers.
All of the data will be used by the FAA to establish evaluations for small UAS airworthiness and system maturity as well as safety-related operational procedures to further the organization’s UAS integration roadmap.
“The University of Alaska Fairbanks program is important because it includes a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in the press release. “It will give us a wealth of data to help develop appropriate safety regulations and standards.”
Monday’s announcement comes right on the heels of the opening of the first FAA test site in North Dakota, just two weeks ago. The remaining four sites are Griffiss International Airport in Rome NY, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and an as-yet-unspecified location in Nevada.