The Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center has established a cooperative research and development agreement with Insitu Inc., of Bingen, Washington, and the New Jersey Air National Guard to study unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and to address their integration into the national airspace system (NAS).
Insitu Inc., a wholly-owned, independent subsidiary of The Boeing Company, will provide two ScanEagle aircraft and their related support hardware and data to the FAA. The FAA will conduct research to guide development of recommendations for integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system. The research will be managed by the FAA’s Research and Technology Development office and conducted at the Technical Center.
The two-year agreement will enable FAA scientists to study and better understand UAS design, construction and functionality. Also, researchers will look at the differences in how an air traffic controller would manage an unmanned aircraft vs. a manned aircraft, by integrating the ScanEagle system into Technical Center air traffic control simulations and studies.
Insitu will train FAA pilots and support staff to fly and maintain the system, and will supply documentation related to the ScanEagle system. The flight testing will take place over the New Jersey Air National Guard’s Warren Grove Range, 20 miles north of the Technical Center.
UAS now fly within the national airspace system under certificates of authorization, or FAA waivers. The waiver process is issued for public entities and determined on a case-by-case basis, with most UAS operations segregated from other air traffic. More than 1,500 types of UAS are in production worldwide, so it is important to establish the parameters to enable them to operate within the NAS, safely and efficiently.
UAS are cleared to fly in restricted airspace, including the military airspace at Warren Grove Range, owned and operated by the New Jersey Air National Guard.
The ScanEagle has flown more than 315,000 hours in military operations, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It can fly more than 24 hours at a time, and has been used in many civil applications, including search and rescue operations, fire and flood monitoring and evacuation efforts conducted in hazardous weather.
A cooperative research and development agreement, or CRDA, is an agreement between a federal laboratory and a collaborating partner. The partners leverage their resources by providing personnel, services, facilities, equipment, intellectual property and/or other resources to conduct specific research or development efforts to further the FAA’s mission. That continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient airspace system in the world. The government provides no funds in these agreements, but the collaborating party may reimburse the government for related expenses.