Government-sanctioned test site opens up airspace for MIT researchers

  • 24-Mar-2014 04:17 EDT

Professor Jon How, Director of the Aerospace Controls Lab, says the new Cape Cod unmanned vehicle test site will offer unique flying opportunities for MIT researchers.

Massachusetts will be the home, and MIT the beneficiary, of a new FAA-designated unmanned aircraft test site just an hour and a half from campus. MIT classes and researchers developing unmanned aerial vehicles and their associated systems will be able to take advantage of the facility located at Joint Base Cape Cod, according to MIT Professor Jonathan How of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

FAA restrictions have made it difficult for researchers to test unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in realistic environments, says How, who directs AeroAstro’s Aerospace Controls Laboratory. How is a member of the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Alliance (NUAIR), a consortium of more than 40 public and private organizations from Massachusetts and New York that proposed the test site to the FAA.

Until now, most MIT UAS test flying has been confined to indoor facilities.

“The combination of the Cape Cod site and a lead site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, will present MIT, and other northeastern schools and industry, with cross-country and climactically diverse opportunities to explore UAS operations and integrate them into general U.S. airspace,” said How, adding that the ability to investigate solutions for inserting UAS in densely trafficked northeast U.S. airspace will be of particular value to researchers.

Joint Base Cape Cod occupies 22,000 acres on upper Cape Cod, in Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, and Sandwich. MassDevelopment, a Massachusetts agency that works with businesses, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth, will manage the facility.

NUAIR and MassDevelopment expect to have the Cape Cod site operational before the end of 2014.

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