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Overview

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directed the FAA to select six sites to study how UAS could be integrated into the national airspace system.[1]

The six sites, which receive no federal funding, were announced in December 2013 (see Figure 3). Some 25 states bid to host them,44 often under the presumption that a test site would bring additional investment and employment. For example, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said, “It could mean billions of dollars in new investment, thousands of technical jobs for our state. It [would] make us an anchor tenant in a new and growing industry.”45

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested that the site operators are unclear about the type of research they are to conduct. Nonetheless, despite problems in attracting UAS industry participation, the sites conducted 195 test flights in their first year.46 The research conducted by the test sites will continue until 2017, but if FAA does not glean useful data from these tests, regulations permitting UAS activities may be delayed or limited in scope.

References

  1. Federal Aviation Administration, "FAA Selects Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research and Test Sites," press release (Dec. 30, 2013) (full-text).
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