Safe, efficient integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System (NAS) is a prerequisite for developing the full potential of this emerging industry. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stipulated that integration must take place “without reducing existing capacity, decreasing safety, impacting current operators, or placing other aid-race users or persons or property on the ground at increased risk.” With its base at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, personnel with extensive career experience in manned aviation, and pace-setting operational best practices, the UMD UAS Test Site is pioneering a future in which unmanned aircraft fly safely alongside their manned counterparts.
The UAS UMD Test Site has partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Homeland Security and CACI International to test new detection technologies that can help track UAS that are flying close to airports. These technologies also have the potential to help combat “bad actors” seeking to utilize drones for malicious purposes, such as crime or terrorism.
Effective response and recovery in the event of a natural disaster can depend on accurate information about impact. Unmanned aircraft can help by providing inagery that can be used in mapping--at far greater spped and at a lower cost than with conventional aircraft. In 2019, UMD UAS Test Site personnel assisted GlobalMedic in carrying out relief efforts in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian.
Data & Airworthiness Evaluation
The UMD UAS Test Site offers a rigorous program of airworthiness testing that includes sensor checks, straight line flight at continuous altitude, orbits around a center point, data collection from a single location at precise altitudes, aircraft/payload testing, and endurance testing.
Forestry & Agriculture
Unmanned aircraft have a wide range of uses in both agriculture and forestry. Examples inlcude remote inspection of crops as well as aerial mapping that can gauge the impact of specific agricultural practices. UMD UAS Test Site work in this area has included a project aimed at studying local "slash-and-burn" farming among conmunities in Belize.
Health & Safety
With support from unmanned aircraft, medical supplies can be delivered more easily to remote or hard-to-reach areas, or in cases where conventional transportation methods are hampered. The use of unmanned aircraft also promises to revolutize the delivery of organs for transplant. In April 2019, engineers and pilots from the UMD UAS Test Site successfully delivered a kidney for transplant--the first such mission ever attempted.