NJIT granted FAA permission to test unmanned aircraft systems

May 12, 2014

More than two years ago, NJIT Professor Michael Chumer was testing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) that were deployed in California yet able to send video into his emergency management network at NJIT.

The video clearly showed that the UAS could be used to enhance both and public safety in the State of New Jersey. The question then arose: How does NJIT bring this untapped potential to New Jersey?

The answer, surmised Chumer, was to apply for permission to use the UAS in New Jersey from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has a Certificate of Waiver/Authorization (COA) process. He started the process nine months ago and on May 8 the FAA awarded the university a COA, making it the first New Jersey university and first public institution in state granted permission to test the UAS. NJIT will use the airstrip on the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May to test the systems.

"This (COA) process was a learning experience for me and NJIT," said Chumer, director of the Crisis Communication Center and of UAS Applied Research at NJIT. "As we proceeded through the application, we learned a lot about what data is required to safely integrate UAS technology within the National Airspace."

NJIT will work closely with the State of New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness as well as the State Office of Emergency Management to develop UAS capabilities. It will also aim to weave that capability into the state's emergency response operations.

NJIT is a partner in the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), housed at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, which last year was designated one of six sites authorized to develop procedures to ensure the safe integration of the UAS into the National Airspace.

The university plans to begin testing under its COA in the summer of 2014 and be prepared to assist New Jersey in bringing UAS capabilities to bear during the hurricane season. In addition, as part of the Test Site MAAP team, NJIT plans to collect operational data required by the FAA on the specific UAS that will be flown in Cape May.

"The testing, evaluation, and applied research that NJIT plans to accomplish will be integrated into nation's overall Test Site Research plan," said Chumer. "The UAS has the potential to strengthen our nation in myriad ways and we at NJIT will call upon our considerable technical skills to hasten this process along."

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