New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia and their leading research universities have signed an agreement stating that they will work collaboratively toward supporting the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) research and testing efforts aimed at integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system.
According to the University of Maryland (UMD), the states' proposals were submitted to the FAA by the University System of Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, representing the combined resources of New Jersey and Virginia, with Rutgers University and Virginia Tech participating in the effort.
UMD says the Mid-Atlantic region contains both uncongested and restricted airspace, as well as proximity to shared air routes and corridors to allow a crawl-walk-run approach to UAS integration. The university reports there is significant interest in the application of UAS technology in the region since all three states have a large presence in the agriculture industry, one of the largest projected markets for UAS.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 calls for establishing six UAS research and testing sites in the U.S., UMD notes. UMD adds that while a vast percentage of the work conducted to date has been accomplished under defense programs, future work on the integration of UAS into the national airspace will be implemented through a combination of federal, state and local government resources, academic institutions, and industry and aviation assets.
The university says that the final proposals were submitted to the FAA in May, with decisions on siting the flight centers expected to be made before the end of the year. The submitted proposals address all of the research and testing environments required by the FAA.
‘The combined resources of the Mid-Atlantic state applicants represent a majority share of the UAS research and testing assets in the United States,’ says Patrick O'Shea, vice president for research at UMD College Park. “As a collaborative unit, our significant resources offer tremendous opportunity to satisfy the efforts envisioned by the FAA and the larger UAS community related to this important project.’
The three states' governors – Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia – expressed their commitment to jointly support the FAA UAS test site infrastructure in a letter to the Department of Transportation and FAA.