Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon were recently chosen to host the “Pan-Pacific Test Sites” the FAA recently announced. An integral part of the “FAA Modernization and Reform act of 2012”(H.R 658) these test sites will serve as laboratories for the development of procedures for certification, servicing, and integration of public and private Unmanned Aerial Systems(UAS) into the national airspace.
These “systems” will range from devices no more complicated than fairly common quadcopters to sophisticated reconnaissance drones designed for future use in police departments or as surveyors of forest and marine regions.
According to OSU, the states involved in testing these systems possess a very wide range of terrains, including everything from rivers to mountains, high desert, arctic tundra, varying forest types and even volcanoes and islands. The team, lead by the University of Alaska, will consist of 58 members and 14 test sites. 17 of the members will be from OSU and four of the test sites will reside in Oregon.
These test sites will play a pivotal role in providing data to the FAA to determine the procedures and policies that should be adopted for validating sense and avoid capabilities, state monitoring, navigation, and safety standards for general operation. Aside from providing data for FAA requirements, the researchers will be focused on the potential uses and benefits to research in the agricultural sciences, earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences, engineering, forestry, and materials and microfluidics science.
The designation of Oregon as one of the states to participate in this first step towards integration of UASs into the national airspace, holds enormous potential for stimulating development of a local hub of industries and services focused on manufacturing, supporting, and accrediting UASs. Just like with Silicon Valley, these test sites have the potential to be a magnet for talent which will spur local job creation and in turn much needed tax revenue.
Because OSU is already well known for its research into sensors and electronics and its existing connections with industry leaders and the DOD, Corvallis, despite not being an actual site for testing, is well positioned to benefit from this partnership.
“This will help put OSU and the state of Oregon on the map for the future of unmanned aerial systems,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “As one of only six test sites in the nation, we’ll be able to fly UAVs more freely and actively, get our students involved in an evolving industry, and help Oregon take advantage of research, development and manufacturing that will be needed.”
The test sites will be located in Tillamook, the Warm Springs Reservation, and Pendleton.
by William Tatum