FAA Moves Ahead On Drone Test Sites

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The FAA will move forward with plans to establish six test sites for unmanned aerial systems, Administrator Michael Huerta said on Friday. "We expect to learn how unmanned aircraft systems operate in different environments and how they will impact air traffic operations," he said. "The test sites will also inform the agency as we develop standards for certifying unmanned aircraft and determine necessary air traffic requirements." The site selections are expected by the end of September. Last November, Huerta had delayed the test-site selection, citing privacy concerns.

Proposals will be accepted from state and local governments, universities and other public entities to develop the six sites. In selecting the sites, the FAA said it will consider geographic and climatic diversity, infrastructure and research needs, population density and air traffic density. The FAA also said the program will "require ensuring that privacy is appropriately protected." The public is invited to review the proposed privacy policy (PDF) and comment on it. Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the announcement is "an important milestone on the path toward unlocking the potential of unmanned aircraft, and creating thousands of American jobs." States across the country are eager to develop a test site, Toscano said, "because they recognize the incredible economic and job creation potential it would bring with it." AVweb's editorial director Paul Bertorelli recently explored the issue of the drone future; click here for his analysis.