FAA Selects University of Alaska as Test Site to Develop Unmanned Air Craft System

Begich says “Cutting-edge research will bring jobs, new missions to Alaska”

U.S. Senator Mark Begich today welcomed an announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration that the University of Alaska has been selected as one of only six sites in the country to research, develop and test unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

In his annual address to the Alaska Legislature two years ago, Begich challenged state lawmakers to invest $5 million in laying the groundwork for UAS development, which they agreed to do in partnership with the UA.

“I fought hard to include funding for this research in the FAA bill because this kind of cutting-edge research will bring jobs, resources and a new mission to the University of Alaska system,” Begich said. “This new initiative will help lay the foundation for other new economic activity in Alaska and put our state on the world map when it comes to this exciting emerging technology.”

The cutting-edge systems are being developed for everything from monitoring wildfires to checking ice conditions in the Arctic for oil and gas exploration. Using unmanned aircraft is an economical way to do sometimes dangerous work and save time, money and even lives. UAS aircraft was also instrumental in guiding the Coast Guard ice breaker that delivered fuel to Nome in the winter of 2011.

For years Begich has argued that Alaska is perfectly positioned for such research and development, given the state’s enormous airspace and challenging weather and temperature conditions.

In its announcement today, the FAA said: “The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation.  Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.”

In addition to Alaska, other states selected for test sites include: Nevada, New York, Texas, North Dakota and Virginia.

Contact:  Heather Handyside – (907) 350-4846