FAA conducts drone tests with Virginia Tech

Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 5:11 PM EDT
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The FAA says by 2026 it expects there to be around 2.6 million drones around the country, so there’s a big need to find a way to safely regulate all of these drones flying around.

Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership is one of seven FAA test sites around the country. Tuesday, the FAA visited for testing.

“This is about anticipating the future growth, and the various uses that we’ll see of drone technology out there in the future,” said Paul Fontaine, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Next Gen Organization for the FAA.

The goal is to find ways to safely have multiple drones flying around for different purposes.

“It takes quite a while right for the technology to evolve, we really are always focused on safe standards, right, being developed, so there’s just a lot of work that goes on to develop those engineering standards over time. And what the purpose of this test, really, is validation of the commercial standards that have been developed, and validating the performance levels that we expect to see,” Fontaine said.

The FAA says as more drones enter the airspace, creating regulations around where and how they can be flown is an important safety measure.

“A lot of society is starting to recognize that things can be done safer with drones, and sometimes quicker with drones, but as you start to scale and have more drones in the airspace, it’s going to be important to be able to keep them separated from each other as a safety function,” Director of Virginia Tech’s FAA Regulated UAS Test Site Tombo Jones said.

A big part of this is finding ways to communicate with drone pilots where other aircraft including planes, helicopters and drones are flying.