The USA begins commercial drone testing

The USA begins commercial drone testing

The plane without a pilot

Image: Dragan Fly

Currently undergoing much scrutiny is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – or drone – the aircraft without the presence of a human pilot, and Buro 24/7 wants to find out more

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that the first of six testing sites for commercial drones is now officially operational. Beginning the tests, the FAA has certified a site in North Dakota for approval. In use will be the Draganflyer X4ES quadcopter – approximately 3-foot wide, 5 pounds in weight, and fully equipped with an in-flight camera.

With a deadline to complete testing by mid-2014, these investigations will begin in May 2014, with the goal of helping the FAA to develop and implement legislations for small UAVs, following guidelines from Congress stating that these rules must be in place by 2015.

The test site operators will be assessing the drone at North Dakota State University's agriculture research division – the aim of which is to prove the effectiveness of soil quality for analysis of crop rotation. As well as agriculture statistics, the drones will also be on a mission to compile safety and maintenance data, which will be used by the FAA to set standards of airworthiness in UAVs.

Testing will continue throughout the year, other test sites including New York, Alaska, Nevada, Texas, and Virginia, encompassing a variety of different climates and environments, support being received by universities and private industry groups alike. As the need for legislation around UAVs becomes more pressing, these testing sites are essential in accumulating valuable data on the concept of the drone and the longer term effects of its use.