Roswell may be site for Aerial system test

March 19, 2013 • Local News

In a cooperative effort, local entities are applying to make Roswell the location of a federally approved unmanned aerial system test site.

Last year, Congress and President Barack Obama approved a mandate requiring the Federal Aviation Administration establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, into the National Airspace System. In February, the FAA released a screening information request to find sites to perform UAS testing.

The city of Roswell, Chaves County, Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development [auth] Corporation, MISTIC and the Greater Artesia Economic Development Corporation are collaborating on an application, said Jessica Chaves, Roswell-Chaves County EDC project manager.

The application is quite involved and has seven volumes of criteria in areas such as safety, experience, risk consideration and overall management of the site, that applicants must be able to show they meet. All volumes must be submitted at different dates, with the final volume due in May.

In the organization’s request, the FAA said it intends to grant approval to six sites across the U.S. based on “geographic diversity, climatic diversity and location of ground infrastructure and research needs.”

At the moment, there are no clearly defined rules as to integrating unmanned aircrafts into manned airspace, said MISTIC Director Glenn Wells. Through the program, sites would collect data to help the FAA develop regulations.

Chaves said the EDC is in the process of attaining land use agreements for any federal, state and or tribal lands underneath the proposed airspace and gathering data for an economic impact assessment. The New Mexico Economic Development Department also is performing an economic impact analysis.

Funding is not associated with site selection, but Wells said FAA approval would allow locations to fast track the filing process to operate a UAV. However, he said the length of the designation is up to the agency.

By September, the FAA should announce which sites have been selected.

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