HEITNER LEGAL client PrecisionHawk has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to advance the research around unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) across rural areas. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the partnership this morning at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference in Atlanta.
PrecisionHawk will be the only UAV manufacturer, joining CNN and BNSF Railway, in this partnership forged under the Pathfinder program, an operational concept validation set up by the FAA to help integrate commercial drones into the US national airspace.
The partnership will leverage PrecisionHawk’s extensive work in the global agriculture landscape to formulate a framework for various types of UAVs, fixed wing and multi-rotor, to operate in the areas of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries. Beyond this use case focus, PrecisionHawk will also test LATAS (Low Altitude Tracking & Avoidance System) its traffic management system for UAVs. Testing will include on-aircraft transponders as well as LATAS traffic management ground-based hardware and software. By introducing an operational tracking system that works with any UAV platform, the FAA and PrecisionHawk can safely test operations beyond visual line of sight in low risk, ‘non-populated’ areas, such as farmland.
PrecisionHawk will begin testing in coordination with the six designated UAS test sites. Under the Pathfinder program, the Lancaster platform will be able to fly beyond line of sight under certain conditions. The goal will be to guide regulations to include this type of flight activity for all UAS in the future. PrecisionHawk will provide the FAA with R&D test flights and test data to assist with regulations around UAS integration.