Unmanned Systems News 14/2/2013

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FAA Information Request for Test Sites Released
By Danielle Lucey

Today the Federal Aviation Administration issued its screening information request, akin to a request for proposal, a milestone in creating the six congressionally mandated test sites across the United States. 

The request stipulates that all operators of the test sites must be nonfederal public entities. Ultimately, the six test sites will be designated by the FAA's Administrator Michael Huerta. The selected applicants will enter into individual other transactions agreements with the FAA that outline the terms and conditions of how the entity will operate its test site. 

"Given the increasing demand for UAS, this test site pilot program has generated great enthusiasm in the UAS market from business and government," said Huerta in a letter issued today. "Expanded UAS access presents the opportunity to spur economic development, which benefits businesses and the communities they serve."

Along with the announcement, the FAA released a milestone schedule for the future. The FAA plans to release a modification to the draft other transactions agreement, which will include a privacy strategy, by 11 June and will issue the final OTA by 27 Sept. 

The FAA began soliciting public information on the test sites in March 2012 after it posted its initial request for comment. 

The FAA addressed privacy in its announcement, which it previously identified as the the reason the selection of test sites has run behind schedule. 

"The final privacy requirements that are developed from this RFC process will address privacy-related data collection by test site operators and vehicles," says the announcement. "Test site operators will be required to establish a privacy policy that is public and builds confidence and trust. Furthermore, the FAA expects that the information gathered about UAS operations at the test sites will contribute to the dialogue among privacy advocates, policymakers and the industry about how to address broader questions relative to the technologies used."

"Looking forward, we expect the data from the test sites will help the FAA expand our global leadership position in aviation safety," said Huerta. "The FAA stands ready to work with test site operators; other federal, state and local authorities; academia; and the UAS industry to achieve our mission of the safe, timely and efficient integration of UAS."