Innovate Washington, an agency focused on fostering growth of Washington state's innovation sectors, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are working with 10 other state, county and private industry partners to be selected as one of six locations nationwide to conduct research that will accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system.
According to Innovate Washington, a consortium of Washington-based organizations has submitted the final section of a proposal to site a UAS research and testing facility in central Washington. Through research and test flights in its test ranges, located over remote and sparsely populated areas in Washington, the consortium says it can advance the application of unmanned aircraft use in search and rescue, weather data acquisition, agriculture crop management, avalanche control and snow pack analysis.
The consortium members include PNNL, Innovate Washington, the Ports of Moses Lake and Grays Harbor, Washington State University, University of Washington, Washington Army National Guard, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing at Everett Community College, the Governor's Office of Aerospace, Washington State Department of Commerce and economic development agencies in Klickitat and Grays Harbor counties.
If successful, the proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will result in the FAA naming the Pacific Northwest Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center as one of six U.S. testing facilities, Innovate Washington says.
The agency reports that the proposal identifies Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake as the location of the flight center's principal office and facilities. In addition, the proposal identifies several locations in central and western Washington where a broad range of testing may occur.
‘Our testing and proving facilities include all elements industry will need to safely conduct sophisticated research and development activities,’ says Steve Stein, PNNL project manager. ‘Our proposal offers essentially a turnkey option from complete ground support operations for fueling, maintenance and emergency response to the existing control tower with regional radar systems, ample hangar space, conference rooms and advanced communications networks.’
Innovate Washington notes that the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 calls for establishing six UAS research and testing sites in the U.S. Decisions on siting the flight centers were scheduled to be made before the end of 2013.