NMSU UAS Test Flight Center earns new FAA authorization

WRITER: Dennis Zaklan

The Federal Aviation Administration has transitioned its Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, in place since 2007, with New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory, to an Other Transaction Agreement for the operation of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center.

NMSU’s UAS FTC was established to provide a unique flight test capability for civil, commercial and public aircraft; payload and technology manufacturers; integrators; researchers; and regulators to flight-test unmanned aircraft systems, subsystems and tactics/procedures in 15,000 square miles of mixed-use airspace under a variety of conditions in central and southern New Mexico.

The airspace assigned to NMSU borders White Sands Missile Range, other Department of Defense airspace, as well as Space Port America’s location. The NMSU UAS FTC has served as a key provider of flight test data to support the FAA’s goal of safely integrating UAS into the National Airspace System.

NMSU’s UAS FTC transition to an OTA completes a cycle of maturation that began with the UAS FTC’s groundbreaking development of the processes, procedures and safety approaches that served as the basis for the congressionally directed test site OTA’s. The testing and validation accomplished at the NMSU UAS FTC also contributed to the FAA enabling flights of small UAS in the National Airspace System for a variety of uses.

NMSU has supported a number of “firsts” for UAS in the National Airspace System, has impacted the Technology Readiness Level of a variety of UAS technologies and has supported national security issues related to UAS.

“NMSU’s UAS FTC is pleased to be extending our formal relationship with the FAA into a second decade under this new agreement,” said Steve Hottman, director of the NMSU UAS FTC. “We look forward to building on our past successes and to continue our positive contributions to supporting the FAA’s safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.”

In addition to the NMSU UAS FTC’s groundbreaking decade of accomplishments, NMSU has led the nation in bringing together the key players in UAS research, development, test and evaluation; regulators; UAS operators; and manufacturers to discuss the critical issues surrounding UAS integration into the National Airspace System.

For 16 years, NMSU’s Technical Analysis and Application Center has hosted the nation’s leading forum devoted to UAS technical, scientific and operational challenges. The UAS TAAC forum includes significant participation from critical government leaders including the FAA, DOD, NASA, Department of Homeland Security and a host of UAS-focused manufacturers, supporting companies and UAS users.

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