A small and unassuming unmanned aircraft made a short flight Monday in Fairbanks that signified a big step in aviation, Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta said.
The quad-rotor Aeryon Scout’s flight of less than five minutes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station officially made the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration the second operational unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, test site in the country.
“Alaska is positioned to make great contributions to our research of unmanned aircraft,” Huerta said from Anchorage.
The FAA recently approved a two-year certificate of authorization, or COA, for the Unmanned Aircraft Center for Scout flights at the research station.
In late December, the center’s Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex, which also includes sites in Oregon and Hawaii, was sanctioned by the FAA as one of six UAS testing grounds across the country.
“This is absolutely a special day for our program and for our people who have worked so hard to make this happen — make it a reality,” center director Marty Rogers said in Fairbanks. “We have and have had for a long time a very active and science and research unmanned aircraft program with over a decade of successful flight operations across Alaska, the Lower 48, and internationally, but this, the very first flight at any of the UAS test sites is groundbreaking for us because it is a visible and tangible event that moves us collectively one step closer to safe integration of unmanned aircraft into our national airspace.”