FAA authorizes Textron UAS test flights in Virginia

By Patrick C. Miller | December 11, 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration has given approval to Textron Systems for test flights of its Aerosonde small unmanned aerial system in Virginia through the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

MAAP, which is led by Virginia Tech and includes academic, government and industry partners from organizations across Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, will support Aerosonde system operations near Blackstone, Virginia. MAAP operates one of six FAA-designated UAS test sites in the U.S

The certificate of authorization enables Aerosonde test flights for agricultural and environmental UAS applications. It will also be used to develop safety, operations and training protocols for MAAP, the local airspace authority and Textron Systems.

“We help companies test their aircraft in compliance with FAA regulations,” said Rose Mooney, executive director of MAAP, headquartered in the Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. “This process of safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace is going to lead to a thriving new industry in the United States.”

According to Textron Systems, the Aerosonde sUAS has been successfully used for scientific, environmental and military operations in harsh climates ranging from the Antarctica to the eye of a hurricane. It’s currently supporting oil and gas security in the Middle East, as well as logging thousands of flight hours worldwide each month.

“We have just begun to scratch the surface of what unmanned systems can accomplish for our communities, our economies and our world,” said David Phillips, Textron Systems vice president of small- and medium-endurance UAS. “Textron Systems brings valuable experience gained through nearly a million flight hours across our unmanned platforms.”

The Aerosonde sUAS incorporates a purpose-built Lycoming EL-005 engine, which Textron Systems says provides superior reliability and maturity. The Aerosonde can be equipped with a range of payloads, including advanced electro-optic/infrared sensors for day-and-night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, in addition to communications relay.