FAA Approves Drone Testing at Crisfield-Somerset Co. Airport - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

FAA Approves Drone Testing at Crisfield-Somerset Co. Airport

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Talon 240 Talon 240
 CRISFIELD, Md-   Drones will soon fly high over the Somerset-County Airport for testing. The Federal Aviation Administration authorized the University of Maryland (UMD) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Test Site to test drones at the location next month.

This authorization resulted from the first use of UMD's airworthiness process, the only known university airworthiness process that is modeled after the U.S. Navy's rigorous standards for ensuring the safety and reliability of its manned and unmanned aircraft.

In December of 2013, the FAA awarded one of six bids to Virginia Tech, which partnered with Rutgers University and University Maryland System campuses, to research and develop ways to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into national airspace. The institutions are a part of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, also known as MAAP. Experts will develop and research ways to integrate drones into national airspace.

The unmanned aircraft system test site director for the A. James Clark School of Engineering at UMD, Matt Scassero, said testing would start with six researchers. 

The Talon 240 is nearly 100 pounds, with a 20-foot wingspan, and can fly for up to three and a half hours. Scassero said the drone will fly for 30 minutes during its initial test flight and will travel a little more than a mile. He said neighbors should not be concerned about noise.

 "This particular system, the Talon 240 that we'll be flying, is going to be very quiet because it's electric drive. So,  essentially you'll hear a low hum sound" until its high in the air, according to Scassero. " We will probably run anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen projects per year."

Jean Zwerlein lives only minutes away from the airport and feels good about the project that involves agricultural surveillance. Evelyn Hengst lives near the airport as well. Unlike a couple of residents who feel nervous about drones being tested so close to their home, she supports the research.

"I think we all think we're going to be spied upon, but I don't see that being the case here," Hengst said. " I think it will help our area."

Scassero tells WBOC the first test flight will only record points of takeoff and landing. He said future flights could collect flight data on environmental conditions and could be used for safety purposes, including search and rescue efforts.

The date for testing has not been set for December. 

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