EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

December 31, 2013

Role for Mass. as FAA picks drone-research sites

BOSTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen Griffiss International Airport in northern New York as one of six unmanned aircraft systems research and test sites, a choice with ramifications for Massachusetts researchers and the airspace over Cape Cod.

As a partner with Griffiss, MassDevelopment will manage testing facilities at Joint Base Cape Cod, with test site areas for what are commonly called drones including restricted airspace over the base and in “warning areas” off the Massachusetts coast. The base covers 22,000 acres on Upper Cape Cod.

“Lately, we have been engaged with multiple in-state and federal agencies who have taken advantage of our offer to ‘host’ them for different projects,” Colonel Jim LeFavor, commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, on Cape Cod, said in a statement. “One of our main commodities is plenty of space and willingness to assist.”

MassDevelopment reported yesterday that “in anticipation of Massachusetts’ potential selection,” the agency and the Massachusetts National Guard established the MA UAS Test Center on Camp Edwards and “began to host active UAS use in the restricted airspace over the Army Guard’s training area.” Under current law, test site operations may continue until February 13, 2017.

The FAA announced its six test sites yesterday following a 10-month process involving 25 proposals from 24 states — a MassDevelopment official said Massachusetts did not submit its own proposal and partnered with New York through the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, a consortium of more than 40 public and private entities.

Other organizations in the partnership include Saab Sensis, SRC, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Rochester Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, Clarkson University, and Northeastern University.

The other five test site operators chosen by the FAA are the University of Alaska, the State of Nevada, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).

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