The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that the University of Alaska's unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test site is the second of six to become operational. Last month, the test site headed by the North Dakota Department of Commerce went online.
According to the FAA, the agency has granted the University of Alaska Fairbanks a certificate of waiver or authorization (COA), allowing flights by an Aeryon Scout small UAS for animal surveys at the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex in Fairbanks. The COA, the FAA says, is effective for two years, and the test site team has already begun wildlife flight operations.
The agency reports that the main purpose of the Alaskan wildlife operation is to show how a UAS can accurately locate, identify and count large wild animals, such as caribou, reindeer, musk oxen and bears, for survey operations requested by the state. The FAA notes flights are taking place at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station.
The site, the agency adds, will also collect safety-related operational data needed for UAS integration. The FAA says that because the research station is located within five miles of Fairbanks International Airport, the flights will evaluate procedures for coordination with air traffic controllers, as well as the type and frequency of operational data provided to them.
The Alaska UAS flights will verify the capabilities of the Aeryon Scout and its sensors and will eventually lead to wildlife survey operations at multiple locations in the state, which is expected to occur in the summer and fall, the FAA reports. The data regarding UAS flights near airports will be used to prepare for other operations near airports, both in Alaska and at the state’s partner test sites in Oregon and Hawaii.
‘The University of Alaska Fairbanks program is important because it includes a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones, so it will give us a wealth of data to help develop appropriate safety regulations and standards,’ comments FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
In late December 2013, the FAA announced six national UAS test site operators.