Drone Test Flights Underway Over South Texas

FAA Test sites pick up the pace and the Lone Star Center is making great progress.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center is conducting a series of flight missions this week, the first since becoming fully operational as a federally-designated test site.

Researchers conducted missions Wednesday and scheduled additional flights Thursday with the University’s RS-16 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated the center as one of only six test sites in December, and approved it as operational on Friday, June 20.

“The Texas test site will provide critical data to the FAA, which they need to develop rules, processes and procedures required to safely operate UAS in the national airspace,” said Dr. Luis Cifuentes, Vice President of Research, Commercialization and Outreach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  “Texas is open for research, development, testing and evaluation offering diverse geography and climates.”

In the six months since the test site designation, the Lone Star Center has been preparing to receive private companies and other organizations that want to test and research aircraft, software or other possible uses for unmanned aircraft, commonly referred to as drones.  More…

Rockwell Collins and NASA to conduct tests aimed at safe integration of UAS into national airspace

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, 24 June 2014. 

Rockwell Collins and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials have scheduled risk reduction tests with the goal of enabling unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate safely in national airspace.

“Routine integration of sizeable numbers of UAS into the national airspace system is a challenging task,” explains Troy Brunk, vice president and general manager of Airborne Solutions for Rockwell Collins. “This technology will provide the critical communications link for UAS pilots on the ground to safely and securely operate their remotely piloted vehicles in flight even though they are many miles apart.”

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The NASA-owned Lockheed S-3 Viking and the University of Iowa Operator Performance Laboratory’s Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft will serve as surrogates for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during two phases of testing.   More…

Crimes to crops: Drone display shows potential use

The Northern Plains (North Dakota) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, one of six designated by the FAA, quickly moving forward with developing a customer base for UAS testing..

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. — An unmanned aircraft the size of a push lawnmower was launched shortly after a report of a person being held at knifepoint. With red, green and white lights flashing below its rotors, the drone slowly circled the scene and relayed sharp images to those watching from afar on a digital screen.

The mock police scene that played out Tuesday kicked off an annual unmanned aircraft conference in Grand Forks, home to the first drone test site in the country to open for business. Another demonstration featured the Draganflyer X4ES recording evidence, such as skid marks and debris, from a two-car accident.

“The possibilities are endless,” said pilot Jake Stoltz,  more…

FAA Announces Texas UAS Test Site Now Operational

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Research to include wetlands preservation, storm research, UAS technologies and standards

WASHINGTON –The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today announced that the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site is ready to conduct research vital to integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. The site is the fourth of six to become operational.

The FAA granted the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use an AAAI RS-16 UAS. The RS-16 weighs approximately 85 pounds and has a wingspan of almost 13 feet.

“The Texas aerospace industry contributes substantially to the state’s total economic output,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It is appropriate that Texas is becoming a pioneer in the emerging unmanned aircraft industry.”

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s research will concentrate on multiple areas including safety of operations and data gathering in authorized airspace, UAS airworthiness standards, command and control link technologies, human-factors issue for UAS control-station layout, and detect-and-avoid technologies.

The site’s specific UAS projects include preservation and restoration of the ocean and ocean wetlands along the Padre Island National Seashore; research in advance of approaching tropical depressions; support to law enforcement in the Padre Island National Seashore; and providing metrics and lessons learned from these flights to the FAA.

“The UAS test sites will help us identify operational goals as well as safety issues we must consider when expanding the use of unmanned aircraft into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This industry is growing exponentially, and we are working hard to make sure it does so safely.”

The FAA selected six congressionally-mandated test sites on December 30, 2013. The agency is working with the test sites to guide their research programs to help the FAA safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.

For more information go to http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/

Watch: UAVs Searching for Teens

Following the abduction of three teens in Gush Etzion Thursday, forces from the IDF’s Sky Rider unit have fanned out in the region and are assisting in collection of intelligence.

The unit specializes in operating unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, and the aircraft are performing a variety of missions – mostly, extensively combing both uninhabited and inhabited areas for signs of the missing youths.

“From the morning hours of Friday, we are in action in order to assist the forces in the Judea and Samaria sectors,” the commander of a Sky Rider battalion, Captain Yohai Versano, told the IDF Website. “Afterward, we provided security for forces that took part in special operations in the sector.” The other Sky Rider teams also took part in collection of intelligence in Judea and Samaria as well as other relevant sectors.

UAVs have some distinct advantages over other means of data collection in this kind of intelligence mission. “We are at the immediate disposal of the company commander and the force carrying out the operation. We assist all of the forces operating in the arena in their missions. We will collect information before the operation and relay it to the force,” explained Versano. “Once there is an identification, we can interface with observation units and the forces on the ground. If they ask to see a house, I can show them the house and the road leading to it, that is our main purpose here.”

The UAV unit participated in nighttime operations, including the large number of arrests that were carried out following the abduction. “They divided up the teams, which joined up with the different units that carried out arrests. They assisted in the arrest itself as well as opening up the route of movement. We made sure no one could run away.”

Via: http://bit.ly/1sjpEQS

FAA Responds to Film Makers Requests For Commercial Drone Use

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The Federal Aviation Administration has run a pretty tight ship when it comes to allowing commercial enterprises to use drones. As the gatekeepers of this innovative new technology, the FAA has pretty much banned all drone use in the private sector, much to the chagrin of industries such as Hollywood and agriculture, which see a diverse array of uses for the technology, and have been aggressively lobbying Washington to ease up on the restrictions.

Now it looks like all those lobbying dollars were well spent. The FAA announced on Monday that they were authorizing a study into how commercial drones can be integrated into America’s airspace, following a petition filed by seven members of the Motion Picture Association of America for an exemption to the drone ban.

“Drones offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming,” said the MPAA’s Neil Fried. “We welcome the FAA’s leadership and support their guidance to safely authorize the use of [unmanned aircraft systems] for the motion picture and television industry.”

“If the exemption requests are granted, there could be tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand for commercial [Unmanned Aerial Systems] operations,” the FAA said in a press release. “However, all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated. The petitioner must still obtain operational approval from the FAA.”

This response comes after Congress asked the agency to come up with a plan for greater drone integration by 2015. Specifically this roadmap will have to take into consideration how drones can operate safely while sharing airspace with commercial flights, as well as look at ways to protect citizens from having their privacy compromised by drones passing through.

The film industry isn’t the only sector interested in using drones for commercial purposes. The agriculture industry has also expressed interest in the technology as a cheap and easy way to monitor crops, and have invested heavily in lobbying for greater integration.

Other commercial enterprises, from events companies, oil and gas refineries and even the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team have sought to use drones to film events. This latest decision by the FAA to honor a petition from the MPAA and move forward with developing drone guidelines shows a commitment to integrating the technology into America’s private sector, and could dramatically change the operations of a number of industries within the year.

Via http://bit.ly/Ta9MQY