Legislation was introduced by Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Hoeven (R-ND) this week to assist in the advancement of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology research and development at the UAS test sites across the country, including the site situated at Virginia Tech.

“Unmanned Aerial Systems have the potential to transform the way we manage disasters, maintain our infrastructure, administer medicine, tackle national security threats, and conduct day-to-day business,” said Sen. Warner. “UAS test sites, such as the one located at Virginia Tech, are crucial to the research and development of these technologies and I am glad to continue building on the progress we have made over the last decade.”

“UAS play a crucial role in our country’s defense, and there is tremendous potential yet to be realized, benefiting our national security as well as our economy,” said Sen. Hoeven. “The UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota, are at the center of our efforts to ensure these aircraft can be safely integrated into our national airspace. This legislation supports their ongoing work and dovetails with the new BVLOS waivers we recently secured for our test site, further strengthening North Dakota’s position in this dynamic industry.”

Specifically, this legislation:

  • Extends the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS test sites for an additional five years through 2028;
  • Formally authorizes research grants through the FAA for the purpose of demonstrating or validating technology related to the integration of UAS in the national airspace system (NAS);
  • Requires a grant recipient to have a contract with an FAA UAS test site;
  • Identifies key research priorities, including: detect and avoid capabilities; beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations; operation of multiple unmanned aircraft systems; unmanned systems traffic management; command and control; and UAS safety standards.

This proposed legislation is an extension of Senator Warner’s endeavors to expand the production of unmanned systems, such as drones, driverless cars, and unmanned maritime vehicles, in the United States and establish Virginia as a prominent figure in this rapidly evolving industry. Earlier this year, he introduced the Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act, which aims to allow drones to be used for the commercial transport of goods across the nation. As the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Warner has taken the lead in Congress to reinforce the country’s national and cybersecurity against adversarial foreign governments using unmanned air systems. Last month, he put forward a bill to prevent the federal government from purchasing drones manufactured in countries recognized as national security threats, such as the People’s Republic of China. (Press Release)

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