Cal UAS team vying for test site

With the release of the FAA requirements document, IYK team rallies regional support to move forward

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Cal UAS team vying for test siteWith last week’s release of a long-awaited requirements document from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Cal UAS Portal team is out the gate in its effort to create a test site for unmanned aircraft systems at Inyokern Airport and environs.

In December 2011 Congress tapped the FAA to create six test sites in order to integrate UASs into federal airspace. Dozens of partnerships across the nation have voiced an interest in hosting a site, with parties anticipating the release of the requirements since July 2012.

The China Lake Alli-ance and the IWV Airport Board launched the Cal UAS team in an effort to synchronize regional DOD and industrial interests while also creating an opportunity for job growth and development in California.

The portal has an operations area of a geographically and climatically diverse region, stretching from Ventura and the central coast to the Eastern Sierra corridor, that includes some of the largest restricted land and sea ranges in the country.

“With the backing of industry, numerous airports and elected officials — as well as the blessing of the DOD leaders in the region — we are ready to make a very competitive proposal that we believe places California at the top of the list in terms of meeting those requirements,” said CLA Executive Director Eileen Shibley, who has been leading the California team.

“This region — from the natural environment to the intellectual capital to the industrial expertise — has everything necessary to bring about this historic shift in the world of unmanned systems.”

Shibley noted that the current process used by industry to operate unmanned vehicles in federal airspace is both cumbersome and restrictive.

“This is a challenge our state’s technical community embraces, as we believe UAVs are the wave of the future and the time to establish formal processes and pathways to ac-commodate them is now.”

Shibley added that the team has already had its first formal meeting and that individual members have been poring through the nearly 200-page requirements document to analyze the content and determine the next steps.

“Yesterday was the deadline to file our intent to submit a proposal. Next week we will have to submit the names of our team members and area of operations.” Shibley said that the team is still solidifying partnerships with compatible stakeholders in the region.

“California, and the aerospace corridor in particular, brings so many resources to the table. It is still unclear how these sites will be determined, but based on what we know of the needs of industry, we think that the Cal UAS portal is perfect as research and development sites.

“A lot has been said about this endeavor in terms of politics, safety, privacy and other concerns. But the fact of the matter is that this is a rare and remarkable opportunity to usher in a new era for UAVs. It is critical that we move forward in finding a logistical solution for accommodating unmanned vehicles in federal airspace. But I have every expectation that when we bring our technical minds to bear on this challenge, this effort will springboard countless other advancements. I think we are going to look back at this time as the impetus of a renewed invigoration of industry in California.”

Story First Published: 2013-02-20