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Posted: 11:13 a.m. Monday, Dec. 30, 2013

FAA does not pick Dayton-Springfield as drone test site


Drone photo

This undated photo released Thursday, May 30, 2013 by aerospace technology company Northrop Grumman shows the RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft that students in the University of North Dakota aviation program will learn to fly. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Northrup Grumman)

By Breaking News Staff and AP


The Federal Aviation Administration announced today six public entities that will develop unmanned aircraft systems, and the Dayton-Springfield area was not on the list.

The rejection delivered a major blow to Ohio officials who had argued that the combined Ohio-Indiana application and the presence of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base would have made an ideal location.

Although Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta told reporters in a conference call today that the agency made its choices based in part on geographic and climate "diversity,'' not one of the six sites were located in the Midwest. Here is a brief description of the six sites selected:

  • University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.
  • State of Nevada. Nevada's project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant's research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada's selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.
  • New York's Griffiss International Airport. Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aide in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.
  • North Dakota Department of Commerce. North Dakota plans to develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology. This applicant will also conduct human factors research. North Dakota's application was the only one to offer a test range in the Temperate (continental) climate zone and included a variety of different airspace which will benefit multiple users.
  • Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.

These congressionally-mandated test sites will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years. Across the six applicants, the FAA is confident that the agency's research goals of System Safety & Data Gathering, Aircraft Certification, Command & Control Link Issues, Control Station Layout & Certification, Ground & Airborne Sense & Avoid, and Environmental Impacts will be met.

"These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation's skies," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The FAA's role in the UAS program is to help the test site operators set up a safe testing environment and to provide oversight that ensures the sites operate under strict safety standards.

"Safety continues to be our first priority as we move forward with integrating unmanned aircraft systems into U.S. airspace," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "We have successfully brought new technology into the nation's aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft."

Ohio and Indiana submitted a 6,000-page application last May two years after Ohio lawmakers inserted language in an FAA bill calling for the establishment of the six sites. Huerta declined to elaborate on why Dayton was not selected, but he said he has offered to privately brief those sites not selected. "This was a very robust competition,'' Huerta said. "We received many, many great proposals.''

The FAA has established requirements for each test site that will help protect privacy. The requirements were developed with public input and the final requirements were published on November 14, 2013 in the Federal Register. This followed the February Federal Register notice that asked for public comments on the draft privacy requirements for the six test site operators.

Among other requirements, test site operators will be required to comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual's right to privacy; have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention; and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment.

A spokesman for Sinclair Community College reacted to today's announcement stating, "The best is yet to come for the Dayton Region and UAS," said Adam Murka. "The Dayton Region has positioned itself as a strong competitor in the areas of UAS related education and training regardless of today's decision. Sinclair and our partners will continue to collaborate and advance a strong UAS industry in the Dayton Region."

U.S. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said "I am deeply disappointed by the FAA's decision not to select the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center as the location for one of the FAA's six UAS test sites across the country. Ohio is a national leader in aerospace, and would have been an ideal location for one of the sites." Portman stated more than 100,000 Ohioans work in aerospace, developing and building cutting-edge technologies and world-class commercial and military equipment. Assets like Dayton's U.S. Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and industry partners throughout the state provide outstanding technical expertise and more than $9 billion in Research and Development and testing every year.

"I remain committed to advancing Ohio's leadership role in aerospace and unmanned systems," said Portman. The Ohio/Indiana UAS Center will move forward with its plans to serve the needs of federal, state, local, and private entities as they continue research and development of UAS. Keeping Ohio's aerospace industry strong and competitive is critical not only to our state's economy, but to the national security of the United States."

Congressman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) also reacted to the announcement. "I want to acknowledge all the hard work of the Dayton community in pursuing the UAS test site, specifically the efforts of the Dayton Development Coalition and Governor John Kasich. Our community has tremendous assets such as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Sinclair Community College and Wright State University that have been on the cutting edge of UAS technology and will continue to promote economic development in this field," said Rep. Turner.

"While Dayton was not initially selected as a test site for UAS integration, our region will benefit from being on the cutting edge of innovation and development in unmanned systems. As the industry continues to grow, the expertise and experience in the Miami Valley will further boost the region as a leader in aviation technology and attract new industry to the area," continued Rep. Turner.

"Today's announcement represents an important step for the FAA, which has played a limited role in the development of unmanned technologies. The FAA is a regulatory agency simply charged with establishing the rules and regulations necessary for safe operations in the National Airspace System. While these sites are significant to the FAA's effort to develop the necessary rules for FAA operations over U.S. airspace. The Dayton community in cooperation with WPAFB has postured itself to pursue major research and development opportunities in an effort to create new economic opportunities for Ohio. We will continue to focus our energy on economic development and look forward to assisting the FAA with its rule making task," said Rep. Turner.

Congressman John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "It's disappointing our region wasn't chosen by the Obama administration to be a test site. But I'm encouraged that local entities such as Sinclair Community College announced even before today's announcement that they would continue with the development of their drones programs regardless of what the FAA did. I commend them for that decision. And in Springfield, under the leadership of Governor Kasich, Ohio and Indiana are working on a joint project to establish our states as leaders in the unmanned aircraft systems industry. Our region has always been at the forefront of aviation technology, and one decision by the FAA certainly isn't going to change that."




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