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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Drone Test Site, Operator Selection Process Begins

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Aviation Administration has announced the process by which operators and locations will be chosen for six Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) test sites in the United States.

The test sites are being implemented as part of a mandate issued by Congress under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The new law, signed by the president on Feb. 14, 2012, directs the FAA, in coordination with NASA and the Department of Defense, to develop test site programs for the integration of what are commonly referred to as "drones" into the National Airspace System.

"The overall purpose of this test site program is to develop a body of data and operational experiences to inform integration and the safe operation of these aircraft in the National Airspace System," the FAA explained. "This proposed rule announces the process by which the FAA will select the test sites for the program and also solicits comments on the FAA's proposed approach for addressing the privacy questions raised by the public and Congress with regard to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems within the test site program."

Six test sites, or ranges, across the country and their operators will be chosen through Screening Information Requests (SIRs), also known as Request for Proposals (RFPs). The FAA is officially soliciting "individuals" interested in submitting applications to operate a UAS test site. The test sites will help the FAA in assessing operational issues such as training requirements, operational specifications and technology considerations.

The FAA also says it recognizes privacy issues that have been raised.

"The FAA also acknowledge that the integration of UAS in domestic airspace raises privacy issues, which the FAA intends to address through engagement and collaboration with the public," the agency promised. "This notice is specifically requesting comments on those potential privacy considerations, associated reporting requirements and how the FAA can help ensure privacy considerations are addressed through mechanisms put in place as a result of the OTAs."

An OTA, or Other Transaction Agreement, is the agreement that will exist between the FAA and the individual operators of the test sites. The agreement lays out the legally binding terms and conditions under which the entity will operate the UAS test site.

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