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Warner introduces legislation to reauthorizes unmanned aerial system test sites

mark warner
Photo: Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia introduced legislation last week to reauthorize the research and development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technologies.

The legislation would permit continued operation at UAS test sites, including at Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership conducts critical research paving the way for integration of unmanned aircrafts into national airspace.

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven introduced the bill with Warner, who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Unmanned Aerial Systems have the potential to transform the way we manage disasters, maintain our infrastructure, administer medicine, tackle national security threats, and conduct day-to-day business,” Warner said. “UAS test sites, such as the one located at Virginia Tech, are crucial to the research and development of these technologies and I am glad to continue building on the progress we have made over the last decade.”

The legislation would specifically extend the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS test sites for an additional five years through 2028, and formally authorize research grants through the FAA for the purpose of demonstrating or validating technology related to the integration of UAS in the national airspace system (NAS).

The legislation would require a grant recipient to have a contract with an FAA UAS test site, and identifies key research priorities, including detect and avoid capabilities, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, operation of multiple unmanned aircraft systems, unmanned systems traffic management, command and control, and UAS safety standards.

“UAS play a crucial role in our country’s defense, and there is tremendous potential yet to be realized, benefiting our national security as well as our economy,” Hoeven said. “The UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota, are at the center of our efforts to ensure these aircraft can be safely integrated into our national airspace. This legislation supports their ongoing work and dovetails with the new BVLOS waivers we recently secured for our test site, further strengthening North Dakota’s position in this dynamic industry.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.