After months of discussions and deliberations, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed the locations of the country’s six new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test centres. The winning states, among 25 entries, were Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
The first of these new centres will be operational by June 2014 with the rest following suit as soon as possible. They will join the existing New Mexico centre and US military test ranges to form the backbone of the national research effort to determine how UAS can be integrated into US commercial airspace. Congress has given the FAA until 2015 to chart a course to integration.
Of course AOS has been working on UAS integration since 2006. As a partner in the UK’s ASTRAEA programme, we provide autonomous systems expertise to fellow partners BAE Systems, Cassidian, Cobham, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and Thales. Coincidentally, also in 2006, EUROCAE (European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment) established Working Group 73 to address UAS operations in non-segregated airspace in the European Union, so this FAA announcement has been anticipated for some time. Now, with the major players on-board, UAS integration can become an international effort – a logical solution for managing what is essentially a global resource.
On the economic front, forecasts for the potential of the UAS industry now are astonishing. A June 2013 Markets and Markets report estimated the global UAS market will grow to US$8.35 billion in the next five years.
AOS Managing Director Andrew Lucas is excited about these prospects in light of the company’s experience. “As an ASTRAEA partner, we’ve been tackling UAS integration challenges using our expertise in autonomy,” Andrew said. “The Consortium has made substantial progress in the first two phases of the program, and with ASTRAEA 3 commencing this month we anticipate demonstration flights and further regulatory development, with ASTRAEA represented on key EUROCAE working groups in addition to our existing relationship with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.”