FAA Test Site Award

Near Space FAA Test Site

January 7, 2014:

After a rigorous 10-month selection process involving 25 proposals from 24 states, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the selection of six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators on December 30. One of the selected sites is the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, led by the University of Alaska. This team includes UAS test ranges in Alaska, Oregon and Hawaii. Near Space Corporation’s Johnson Near Space Center (JNSC) is one of three sites located in Oregon.

“The importance of the FAA selection is that Near Space Corporation will be heavily involved in conducting the required research, with a variety of academic, commercial, and government partners, to safely adopt the technological advantages of UAS for high-value uses,” said Tim Lachenmeier, NSC President. This research will be conducted in remote and sparsely populated areas. Examples are marine and atmospheric research, emergency management and disaster response, search and rescue, forestry, and precision agriculture.

Oregon proposed three Test Ranges to be included in the test site: the JNSC, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport, located in Pendleton. “The Oregon team developed an important contribution to the proposed effort”, said Eric Simpkins, state proposal team lead. “Our partners include Oregon State University, Economic Development of Central Oregon and more than a dozen companies representing the UAS industry.”

An overarching component of this award is the FAA’s requirement that each Test Site operate within a strict set of privacy policies and procedures that are subject to FAA and public review.
“Throughout it all, we are required to comply with FAA regulations similar to those that apply to piloted aircraft, with extra safeguards included for protecting privacy, people and property ”said Lachenmeier. “Overlaying this is an annual review of Test Site operations to verify compliance with the stated privacy policies and procedures, and that those outcomes are shared in a public forum annually. The privacy policies are to remain current and effective, and are to be applied to all UAS operations we conduct. Our local JNSC Test Range will fall under the same privacy policy as all of the ranges in each of the three states within the Pan Pacific UAS Test Range Complex.”

Association Unmanned Vehicle System International, the UAS industry’s trade association, estimates that 100,000 new jobs will be created by 2025. It is also estimated that the economic impact of UAS will total $82 billion in the period from 2015 through 2025. “States that create favorable regulatory and business environments for the UAS industry and the technology will likely siphon jobs away from states that do not,” the AUVSI reported.

Point of Contact: Eric Simpkins, eric.simpkins@nsc.aero