The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration announced today that the Griffiss International Airport unmanned aircraft systems test site, located in Rome, New York, is now operational.
This is the fifth test site to go live of the six that the FAA has selected, averaging about one new site per month since May. The Virginia Tech-led Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership is the remaining test site awaiting the green light.
The research at the New York test site will focus on imaging agriculture fields with different sensors. Specific projects will focus on insects, weeds, diseases, crop biomass, crop characteristics and background soil characteristics.
“We are accomplishing two important missions with the launch of this test site,” said Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the NAS [National Airspace System] is our No. 1 priority, but the agricultural research performed in Rome also may have far-reaching benefits to farmers in New York and across the nation.”
The site has a two-year certificate of authorization to fly PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster unmanned aircraft. The flights, for now, will occur over two fields in New York but eventually the test site will also manage agriculture research flights from Joint Base Cape Code in Massachusetts. The platform will be operated by research teams out of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“The approval of this particular COA represents a very strategic and exciting step forward by the FAA,” says PrecisionHawk spokesperson Lia Reich. “By allowing the users, in this case the research teams at Cornell, to forgo the time and financial resources it requires to obtain a private pilot’s license, our UAV platform will be available for data collection at the team’s operational convenience, which is exactly the use-case we created it for.”
The site will also work on detect-and-avoid technology, researching the prevention of manned-unmanned aircraft crashes.
“The data the Griffiss team plans to acquire and share will help the FAA in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested Northeast airspace,” says FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.