The FAA’s site selection process for choosing six pilot sites for testing integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with the National Air Space (NAS) officially began in February when they put out a Screening Information Request (SIR) asking for proposals from interested sites.
The FAA announced that it has now received applications from 50 sites spread across 37 states (see map).
The six chosen sites are likely to be announced by the year-end. Meanwhile, some of the more likely contenders such as California want to leave nothing to chance. The Golden State has two separate teams vying to be selected as one of the test sites.
One of the teams is the Southern California Unmanned Systems Alliance, led by Ventura County and the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA).
Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) is leading the push, with a three-day symposium on the “Future Civilian Applications of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” in progress March 26-28 in Thousand Oaks, CA.
The symposium, co-hosted by Assemblyman Gorell and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), has panels on the possible use of drones for everything from the movie business to agriculture and disaster response.
More importantly, there are discussions highlighting the economic development opportunities for the UAV industry in California. Ventura County has several speakers in the line-up at the symposium, and VCEDA hopes they can showcase their effort for gaining a UAS-NAS test site.
In a statement for a select committee hearing which heard from both of California’s dueling teams, VCEDA President/CEO Bill Buratto said a UAS test site would be a perfect fit for the county. “We have a high-tech educated workforce, a great relationship with our Navy bases, and an established local connection to the aerospace industry,” added Buratto.
Assemblyman Gorell has taken matters one step ahead of the site selection process by introducing legislation (Assembly Bill 1326) to provide state incentives for drone manufacturers.
AB 1326 seeks to provide sales tax exemptions for purchasing machinery that is used by UAV manufacturers, and a $20,000 tax credit for each new worker hired for a UAV manufacturing facility.
California’s second team is the Cal UAS Portal Consortium led by Kern County and the Indian Wells Valley Airport District, which seeks to establish a “UAS Center of Excellence” with Inyokern Airport as its central core. Their Cal UAS Portal provides detailed information regarding their infrastructure and advantages for UAS testing.