FAA to Test Drones in Six States

droneInternational sales of civilian and military drones are expected to reach $89 million over the next decade. Civilian unmanned aircraft (UAV) in the U.S. is a new venture and the country has responded by assigning drone test centers. Out of the 25 applications received, six states have been approved for the project: Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. This selection process is one of the first U.S. regulatory moves to address the push for commercial drones by companies such as Amazon.com.

Andrija Ekmedzic is an aeronautical and mechanical engineering expert. “My opinion is that this is very important news as well as the mark of the new age,” says Ekmedzic. “This can change the world as we experience it today. If there would be a safe way to monitor the airworthiness of UAVs and combine it with piloted aircraft, the UAV market would boom. Today, to the best of my knowledge, the civil air space regulations are non-existent, so this will be the first important development. Although there is no timetable for how long this will take, I think it is inevitable.

Elton Stone, Aviation Program Coordinator at the College of Albemarle in North Carolina, agrees. “Unmanned aircraft or drones are the future of our society,” explains Stone. “What better opportunity to put an expendable piece of equipment in harm’s way instead of a human life. North Carolina has been a strong advocate of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) since conception. There has been a lot of discussion about drone machineries tracking animal migration, mudslides or assisting in wild fire control. The testing program for the UAS is much needed. The FAA has not caught up with the increased publicity that UAS have reached. The future use in the civilian role will be achieved at a rapid pace. UAS are a necessity of today’s society, as were the sands and winds of Kitty Hawk.”

Aviation consultant Cary Brown of Vmo Consulting says,  “The use of drones in commercial applications is inevitable and will be implemented in a careful graduated approach based on current condition risk assessment i.e. designated operating routes, landing areas and procedures, altitude restrictions, noise restrictions etc. FAA Certification of hardware and personnel, air traffic management are just a sample of issues to be resolved. Since drones of all types and sizes are already operational and have significant operational data the ‘testing’ will probably focus on the integration into the FAA requirements which are TBD.

“Certainly both fixed and rotary wing drones will be utilized. Certified approaches to certified landing areas will certainly slow down the door to door delivery service scenario. Issues such as obstacles from chimneys, poles, wires, people etc. etc. will have to be solved before house to house deliveries are viable. But deliveries to designated facilities with approved approach routes etc. such as hospitals, many of which already have FAA approved approaches, can utilize the services for transportation of lab samples, blood etc. Large warehousing and logistics facilities with large outside lots can receive and send high priority packages for customer pickup.”

Brown raises some pertinent questions about the future use of drones. “Just how many drones can occupy the airspace at one time? When does a “drone” become a remotely piloted aircraft? How big can they get? If its safe enough for operation over populated areas can it carry hazardous material? People?”

Officials from the six states selected have stated they are very excited about the potential economic effect of the testing program. Testing begins soon and is expected to continue until February 2017.

Zintro has experts in every industry sector, across every job function, in every geographic region. Recently, some of the following topics have seen inquiry activity: