In a somewhat shocking development for those familiar with FAA’s bone-headed hardline policy on commercial drone operations in the National Air Space, Aerosonde, a small UAS manufacturer owned by Textron Systems Unmanned Systems and affiliated with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), has received an FAA COA to conduct sUAS research in the NAS.
The FAA has agreed to let a drone fly above 400 feet.
Cue the drone-commercial aircraft collision hysteria…right about now.
From the press release: “MAAP, which is led by Virginia Tech and includes academic, government and industry partners from key organizations across Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, will support Aerosonde system operations near Blackstone, VA, with an emphasis on enabling unmanned aircraft system integration into the NSA. Flights will contribute to proving the agricultural and environmental applications of unmanned systems, while developing safety, operations and training protocols between MAAP, the local airspace authority and Textron Systems, to ensure safe, efficient unmanned flight operations.”
From the standpoint of drone industry advocates, this is a solid step in the right direction in many respects for the failing-to-launch commercial UAV industry here in the U.S., especially as our Canadian neighbors to the North have already beat us to the punch in crafting sensible regs.
Not to mention, getting solid research data on commercial flights in the NAS means allowing such activities to actually take place, so that FAA can have enough real information to make informed decisions on potential regulations such as pilot’s licenses and whether to allow commercial operations above the 400 foot ceiling, whenever that may be.
If we intend to commercialize any time soon, these are exactly the type of public-private research partnerships that FAA needs to continue to encourage.