To fly an unmanned aviation system (UAS) in U.S. airspace, entities must receive a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This includes use by government, local law enforcement and state universities among others. The COA authorizes an operator to use defined airspace and includes special provisions unique to each operation. These provisions include, but are not limited to:
- May include a requirement to operate only under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and/or during daylight hours.
- Issued for a specified time period (up to one year, in most cases).
- Require coordination with an appropriate air traffic control facility and may require the UAS to have a transponder to operate in certain types of airspace.
- Due to the UAS’s inability to comply with “sense and avoid” rules, a ground observer or an accompanying “chase” aircraft must maintain visual contact with the UAS and serve as its “eyes” when operating outside of airspace that is restricted from other users.
To date, the FAA has issued COA’s to 95 users who operate 72 different aircraft types. CLICK HERE to view a full list of FAA UAS Certifications and Authorizations
Boosting Local Economies – The Competition for UAS Test Sites
With the expansion of unmanned systems into national airspace by 2015, significant growth in civilian and commercial markets is expected as demand for UAS technology increases. In the near-term, Congress has mandated that by December 2012, the FAA must select six unmanned aerial systems test sites across the country. Given the potentially large-scale economic implications, more than 20 states have expressed interest in becoming an FAA test site, pointing to the potential economic benefit the designation would bring.
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