The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Drone Research program achieved a significant milestone as it gained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to oversee unmanned aircraft flights for other organizations.
Under the special waiver granted, the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI), a part of UAF's Geophysical Institute, will be responsible for determining the airworthiness of drones from companies and organizations that are testing their equipment in designated airspace areas.
As a result of the ACUASI's involvement, testing procedures will be streamlined for customers. Under the waiver, the ACUASI will take charge of overseeing drone operations weighing less than 300 pounds.
The waiver permits the testing and evaluation of larger drones under real-world conditions and can foster the growth of the drone economy both in Alaska and nationwide.
The ACUASI has several established airspace ranges for testing, including seven in Alaska and several others in the Lower 48. So far this year, the ACUASI conducted around 1,200 flights in all of its testing sites.
Drone research program
The center has become a national leader in unmanned aircraft programs and will be supporting other organizations' drone operations.
UAF's drone research program has been instrumental in various scientific applications, including monitoring North Atlantic right whales using the SeaHunter, a 300-pound drone owned by UAF, and flying a 280-pound drone with a wingspan of almost 13 feet from Fairbanks International Airport.
The university's drone research program received approval from the FAA to evaluate and oversee the airworthiness of customers' drones, enabling streamlined procedures for testing in designated airspace areas.
“The FAA is allowing the test site to test and evaluate larger drones under real-world conditions,” ACUASI Director Cathy Cahill said in the statement. “This will allow us to support the development of a strong drone economy in Alaska and across the nation.”
The waiver allows for the testing and evaluation of larger drones under real-world conditions, which will help to promote a robust drone economy in Alaska and across the nation.
Photo credit: JR Ancheta/UAF Geophysical Institute
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