Army Research Lab Creates Netted Facility for sUAS Testing

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has created a fully enclosed research facility for the safe testing of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. Army facility in Maryland.

According to a press release from the lab, Army researchers installed about a ton of netting across four 107-foot towers over 220 square feet of space. This larger facility towers over a smaller one totaling 60 square feet and reaching 20 feet high.

The two areas provide researchers with a safe zone that cost the government less than $75,000 total, ARL says. Importantly, both facilities meet the Federal Aviation Administration’s requirements for testing drones in a controlled airspace environment.

“The purpose of this facility is to meet the research needs for unmanned, remotely piloted vehicles, systems, component upgrades, and counter system research and development,” says Tim Burcham from the ARL’s sensors and electron devices directorate. “This includes the detection and defeat of threat assets.”

Burcham is the “idea man” behind the new facility, according to Eric Adler, his branch chief.

“We wanted a facility where we could safely fly our sensors on small UAS platforms,” Adler explains. “I’m in the sensors business, and this is a good facility to help us test in a safe and controlled airspace environment.”

Burcham says the nets are lowered during non-duty hours to ensure the safety of wildlife, specifically birds, and are raised within a minute to begin testing operations.

The lab says Timothy Vong from ARL’s weapons and materials research directorate is a frequent user of the facility.

“This facility enables us to rapidly perform research safely as we push the envelope to understand how autonomous drones can help soldiers on the future battlefield,” comments Vong.

ARL notes that the facility is also open to other UAS researchers, such as universities.

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