Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — The question used to be when spotting unidentified flying objects (UFO) in the sky was whether it was a bird, plane, or a guy in blue spandex. As of Monday we may be asking if it is a drone as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta made the much anticipated announcement of the six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site operations, the latter of which does not include the state of Ohio.
According to Huerta during a conference call those chosen out of 24 states vying for consideration comes down to the following: University of Alaska, State of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University (Corpus Christi) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The city of Piqua was briefly optioned as a potential UAS location given the municipal airport via social media earlier this month. However, the FAA had quite a few demands or factors, that is, to consider that included geography and climate, along with research capabilities, aviation experience, with aircraft type and volume in the surrounding region.
Not that it hurt for trying, as the Piqua Municipal airport has been noted in the past as a key economic driver by Gary Huff, city manager, during previous discussions on its NPIAS (National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems) designation or lack thereof.
As for the six announced UAS sites, the first will be operating within 180 days and all will operate until Feb. 2017, as they work to safely integrate unmanned systems into U.S. airspace. This leaves a few years before noting drones in the sky with the first priority on the FAA list is for the unmanned aircraft to be able to detect and avoid other aircrafts, while implementation of their usage being sensitive to privacy concerns, among other issues.
“Our air space system is not static,” continued Huerta with operations to evolve as UAS are already being utilized in port and border surveillance and environmental monitoring, with their usage expected to grow in both civil and commercial operations due to their versatility and relatively low operating costs.
The FAA UAS announcement came on the heels of the Department of Defense (DoD) releasing an Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap (FY2013-2038) that discusses the future of the drone program over the next 25 years. The 168-page document looks at both current and future trends for the program, as well as how the economy will play a significant part on these human controlled aircrafts. The latter of significance given work continues on truly autonomous systems, meaning drones able to make decisions without human interaction. Something the DoD states they will continue to “carefully consider the implications of these advancements.”
More information at www.defense.gov/pubs/DOD-USRM-2013.pdf