First UAS Test Site Ready For Launch


The first of six sites around the country for aerial testing of unmanned aircraft systems is now operational, the FAA said on Monday. Flight testing will begin at the North Dakota site the week of May 5. Data collected will “lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We believe the test site programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft [into the National Airspace System] and fostering America’s leadership in advancing this technology.” Initial flights will be conducted with a Draganflyer X4ES aircraft above North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center, in Carrington, N.D., the FAA said.

The main goal of the initial tests will be to show that UAS can check soil quality and the status of crops, the FAA said. A second set of missions, scheduled for later this summer, will fly above Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, near Devils Lake, N.D. In those tests, UAS will be used to survey the numbers of elk, bison and deer. The North Dakota testing will continue for up to two years. Five other test sites have been selected, but the FAA hasn’t said how soon they will be operational.