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FAA opens fifth unmanned aircraft test site

Aug. 13, 2014 - 05:35PM   |  
By HEATHER KULDELL   |   Comments
Griffiss International Airport will use PrecisionHawk's Lancaster Mark III unmanned aerial vehicle platform as part of an FAA program to research the integration of UAV's into the nation's airspace.
Griffiss International Airport will use PrecisionHawk's Lancaster Mark III unmanned aerial vehicle platform as part of an FAA program to research the integration of UAV's into the nation's airspace. (PrecisionHawk)

Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, is the latest test site the Federal Aviation Administration will use to research how unmanned aircraft will be integrated into the national airspace system.

The FAA granted the Griffiss International Airport team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster Mark III unmanned aerial vehicle platform, a small UAV measuring about 4 feet and weighing 4 pounds. The COA allows the team to conduct flights without getting an FAA pilot’s certificate for operation.

PREVIOUSLY: FAA chooses UAS testing and development sites

The Griffiss team’s mission is twofold. It will use the PrecisionHawk UAV to monitor agricultural fields with one-hour flights at 400 feet, performed as research needs. The PrecisionHawk will use its visual, multispectral, thermal, video and lidar sensors to try to detect insects, weeds and disease, as well as collect general information such as crop characteristics and biomass.

As the team operates the UAV, it also will develop test and evaluation processes for sense and avoid capabilities, which prevent collisions with other aircraft.

“The data the Griffiss team plans to acquire and share will help the FAA in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested Northeast airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a press release.

Congress directed the FAA to set up six tests sites to study how UAS may be incorporated into civil airspace. Griffiss is the fifth site. Other facilities include the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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