Airport, partners vie to be unmanned aircraft site

BY JOYCE LOBECK – SUN STAFF WRITER

As the next epoch of air travel in pilotless craft gains momentum, two pieces of federal legislation have mandated six test ranges to integrate unmanned aircraft systems safely into the national airspace system.

And the Yuma County Airport Authority believes this region would be perfect.

To back up that belief, the governing body for the Yuma International Airport has put together a 100-page briefing detailing why this area should be considered by the Federal Aviation Administration for one of the sites.

Currently, unmanned aircraft can be flown only in restricted airspace. The UAS test sites would have two customers: the FAA to gather data on how to integrate unmanned aircraft into national airspace and aircraft developers who will have their own test requirements.

The military already is increasingly using unmanned aircraft. The ultimate goal is to develop them for commercial use as well, perhaps by such users as the Forest Service, agriculture and emergency services.

Anchored by the airport’s Defense Contractors Complex (DCC), the Yuma International Airport and its partners already have the facilities, the technology, the security, the experience, the ranges and the successful business model in place to meet FAA’s criteria for a UAS test site, said Craig Williams, airport director.

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