The Federal Aviation Administration announced the six research and test site operators that will help it assess the issues associated with utilizing remotely piloted aircraft in US civil airspace. They are: Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y.; the state of Nevada; North Dakota Commerce Department; Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi; University of Alaska, including test ranges in Hawaii and Oregon; and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, including test ranges in New Jersey and Virginia. “These six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meets is [RPA] research needs,” states the agency’s Dec. 30 release. FAA chose these operators from the 25 proposals it evaluated over a 10-month period. The test site operations are slated to run through at least mid-February 2017. According to FAA, Griffiss will work on test and evaluation and verification and validation processes. Nevada will concentrate on RPA standards and operations, while North Dakota will focus on RPA airworthiness data, high-reliability data link technology, and human factors research. Texas A&M will identify RPA safety requirements, and the University of Alaska will develop standards for RPA categories, state monitoring, and navigation. Virginia Tech will conduct RPA failure-mode testing.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.