FAA seeks public input for UAV test sites

Last month, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC joined with the Denver Metro EDC and Front Range Airport to promote the state as a test site for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Now the Federal Aviation Administration is requesting public input on the selection process.

Congress authorized six sites for the unmanned aircraft systems in both a defense spending bill and in the new FAA reauthorization bill.

The FAA is asking for help from the public to develop requirements for the sites, designation standards and oversight materials. Congress has said that the UAVs must be fully integrated into U.S. security efforts by Sept. 30, 2015. In addition to allowing for more operations – including those by commercial operators – the goal of the site is to help the FAA develop the regulatory framework to govern the widespread use of UAVs in the national airspace.

“Unmanned aircraft will be the next big revolution in the aerospace industry, and the creation of these test sites will mark the beginning of what will one day be a common occurrence, manned and unmanned aircraft safely flying together in the same airspace” said AUVSI President & CEO Michael Toscano.

There are currently dozens of non-military uses of unmanned systems, including the use for law enforcement, firefighting, border surveillance, disaster surveillance, aerial photography, wildlife monitoring, agriculture applications, news coverage, mapping and more. The field of unmanned systems is changing rapidly, that it is likely we have not fully comprehended all of the potential uses. However, one thing is clear unmanned systems are here to stay.

Brian Binn, president of military affairs for the chamber/EDC, said Colorado Springs could benefit if the Denver-based airport was chosen as a testing site.

“There’s a Springs connection because Fort Carson is very interested in drones,” he said. “And the (Air Force) Academy is doing research on unmanned flights. Depending on what the flight patterns look like, they can use Peterson Field. It makes sense.”

Colorado’s aerospace industry provides $3 billion in payroll to the state. Aerospace jobs have grown 6.9 percent in the past five years, said Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver EDC.

Even though the site won’t be located in the Springs, the city and region can benefit.

“We really believe that if we present a united front, we’ll have a better opportunity for it,” Binn said. “And what benefits the Front Range, benefits everyone. It’s so competitive; we can’t just look at things from a single perspective.”

The public comment period will be open for 60 days following the official publication in the Federal Register tomorrow.. Responses will be limited to 2.5 pages for each question, with a maximum response of 20 pages.