The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced it has selected the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) as one of six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites to support integration of UAS into the national airspace system. The University System of Maryland, through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Virginia Tech and Rutgers University in September, will collaborate and partner on the FAA UAS test site, providing coordinated research and testing. The MOU highlighted the cooperative UAS research conducted by the three institutions, the research and testing proficiencies, and the potential for an efficient integration effort.
“Maryland is home to the world’s leading center of UAS activity – the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River – and an array of other assets. At both the university level and among federal facilities, Maryland has been performing testing and development of UAS for more than two decades,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “The selection of MAAP as one of the UAS test sites leverages the unparalleled capabilities of three world-class educational institutions to create jobs and generate a significant economic boon to the state, the region and the nation.”
Designation as an FAA test site under the 2012 federal law requiring integration of UAS by September 2015 carries with it requirements to support research and testing efforts that lead to future regulations governing the use of UAS, especially in the commercial arena, as well as features protecting privacy under such operations.
“The combined resources of the Mid-Atlantic states represent a majority share of the UAS research and testing assets in the United States,” said Patrick O’Shea, vice president for research at the University of Maryland College Park, the state’s flagship campus. “As a collaborative unit, our significant resources offer tremendous opportunity to satisfy the efforts envisioned by the FAA and the larger UAS community related to this important project.”
“From research activities to innovation and economic development, we look forward to significant advances in unmanned vehicle technology in Maryland,” said Darryll Pines, University of Maryland Clark School of Engineering Dean and Farvardin Professor.
Maryland’s prowess in UAS research, testing and development is reflected in the University System of Maryland and other renowned educational institutions, federal facilities such as the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Naval Air Station Patuxent River and NASA Goddard Flight Center, local airports, and numerous industry partners to support research and testing efforts. The full support of the delegation representing Maryland was mobilized as well to reinforce the critical capabilities that are being brought to bear.
Sens. Mikulski and Cardin along with Congressman Hoyer of the Maryland delegation added in a joint statement, “With a number of premier federal assets, outstanding higher education institutions, and strong industry partners, our region leads in the area of autonomous systems. We appreciate all the resources that came together to partner on this effort, which will increase the safety, efficiency, and reliability of our nation’s airspace and will support job creation in the region. We will maintain our nation’s preeminence in these highly technical areas only by this kind of collaborative approach and look forward to partnering with all stakeholders as this effort moves forward."
In collaboration with MAAP, the University of Maryland team will work closely with the FAA to define research outcomes and processes that will lead to the safe, efficient and robust integration of unmanned systems. That integration will be in stages over several years, with the FAA’s rulemaking process guiding the way.
“We have the safest airspace in the world thanks to the FAA and its supporting structures,” said Matt Scassero, Director of the UMD UAS Test Site. “This will be an evolutionary process, implementing new technologies with time-tested methodologies to evaluate them, and a proven regulatory environment to enact the rules that will necessarily govern this new industry. We look forward to being a part of this exciting endeavor.”
December 30, 2013