This month marks the first time a large aircraft has flown at any of the FAA-designated unmanned aircraft system (UAS) test sites.

On June 12-15, Aurora Flight Sciences’ Centaur aircraft flew multiple unmanned flights out of the Griffiss UAS Test Site, located at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York.  The Centaur is large-scale, fixed wing optionally-piloted aircraft (OPA) based on the four seat, twin engine Diamond DA42 general aviation platform and is used for variety of military and commercial applications, including ISR, security, and scientific research.

In 2014, the FAA selected six UAS test sites to conduct research deemed vital to safely integrating UAS into the national airspace system (NAS). The Griffiss UAS Test Site, which is managed by Northeast UAS AirSpace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), was the fifth site to become operational and was tasked by the FAA to develop test and evaluation processes under FAA safety oversight, evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using a variety of sensors, and conduct research on sense and avoid capabilities to prevent collisions with other manned and unmanned aircraft.

Unlike small UAS that have to date been operating out of Griffiss, the Centaur’s large size, long-endurance and expanded-payload capabilities provide researchers with superior options and flexibility to support Griffiss’ mission directives