This morning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that its first drone testing site is operational. There will eventually be six such sites. The first is located in North Dakota. The agency is more than two months ahead of schedule.
Tests on the Draganflyer X4ES drone will commence on May 5.
Drones, what the FAA calls unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, will have two roles at the site, including research into soil in the state. That aside, drones that take part in testing in North Dakota will also provide data for the FAA to help it “analyze current processes for establishing small UAS airworthiness and system maturity,” as well as provide initial information regarding the “maintenance and repair” of drones, presumably for later regulation.
In the FAA’s view, the sites are important for the safety of drone use. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated that the collected data from the site “will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS.”
The conventional view on drones is that their future popularity is all but assured, with various industries plotting their use. So while the how and when remain questions, the future certainly looks unmanned. Interestingly, the government in this case doesn’t feel too far behind the curve of technology — drone tech in the consumer and commercial markets remains nascent. We’ve only got drones figured out in the military sense.
The FAA expects its drone-testing sites to help “integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.” Look up: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s not Superman, it’s just a drone.