The University of Maryland’s (UMD) A. James Clark School of Engineering has opened up a new outdoor flight laboratory for testing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
Located minutes from the main College Park campus in the UMD Discovery District, the netted Fearless Flight Facility (F3) will serve as a critical nexus between the Clark School of Engineering’s College Park labs and the UAS test site in Maryland’s St. Mary’s County, says the university.
“The University of Maryland continues to make incredible strides in autonomy and robotics. Facilities like this one provide the real-world testing conditions that enable innovative breakthroughs,” says Darryll Pines, Clark School dean and Farvardin professor of aerospace engineering. “F3 allows us to pursue an aggressive UAS research agenda that would not be possible without the protection of a netted enclosure.”
Student and faculty researchers who were confined to testing vehicles in a lab or not at all will now be able to use the 100-foot-wide, 300-foot-long and 50-foot-high facility, which is equipped with netting that facilitates real-world wind and weather conditions.
UMD notes that the airspace over the greater D.C. area is the most restricted in the country: All drone flights within a 15-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport are prohibited without authorization from the federal government. Because F3 is considered indoors, these and other restrictions on outdoor flights do not apply.