A "Pan-Pacific Test Site" with locations in Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii, is among six sites designated Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration to help test and develop unmanned aerial systems.
Oregon State University is one of the partners in the Pan-Pacific Test Site, OSU officials said, along with the University of Alaska, the lead partner in the site.
Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU, said the announcement is a big deal for the university — and for the growing unmanned aerial industry in Oregon. "This will be a terrific asset for our researchers and students," Spinrad told the Gazette-Times Tuesday morning.
Three areas in Oregon already are designated for use in the new test site: The Warm Springs Reservation in the central Oregon Cascade Range, the Pacific Ocean off Tillamook and areas near Pendleton.
The addition of sites in Hawaii and Alaska in the Pan-Pacific Test Site means that researchers can access a wide variety of terrain for testing the unmanned flights.
The designation as one of the six national test sites means that researchers and others can stage flights in those areas without going through the cumbersome process of getting certificates from the FAA for individual flights.
Congress has charged the FAA with integrating the civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles into the nation's skies by 2015. The six test sites will explore issues involving airspace use, safety, certification, technological development, environmental and human factors and other issues.
The other sites announced Monday include universities or facilities in Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
See Wednesday's Gazette-Times for more details.