The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says the Griffiss International Airport unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site in Rome, N.Y., is now operational.
The FAA says the purpose of the site, the fifth of six to come online, is to conduct research vital to integrating UAS into the national airspace system (NAS).
The research at the Griffiss test site will evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using different types of sensors, including visual, thermal and multispectral equipment, which will benefit farmers regionally and nationally. The research will enhance current methods of monitoring crops and provide additional information for continuing field research efforts, the agency explains.
“We are accomplishing two important missions with the launch of this test site,” comments Anthony Foxx, transportation secretary. “The safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the NAS is our number one priority, but the agricultural research performed in Rome also may have far-reaching benefits to farmers in New York and across the nation.”
The FAA granted the Griffiss International Airport team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization to use a PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS, which weighs approximately three pounds and has a wingspan of four feet.
The site’s specific UAS projects include detection of insects, weeds, diseases, crop characteristics, crop biomass and background soil characteristics in two farm fields. Flights will take place at or below 400 feet and will last up to 60 minutes from takeoff to landing.
They will be repeated as needed to take geospatially referenced imagery as part of the agricultural research. Eventually, the site also will manage unmanned agricultural research flights from Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
The Griffiss team also plans to work on developing test and evaluation processes under FAA safety oversight, as well as conduct research on sense and avoid capabilities to prevent collisions with other manned and unmanned 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,” says Michael Huerta, FAA administrator.
The FAA was directed by Congress to select six UAS test sites. The first site to come online was North Dakota in April. The Alaska site went live in May, and the Nevada and Texas sites became operational in June.