Formed through a partnership between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and New Mexico State University, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center (UAS FTC) supports the integration of unmanned systems into the National Airspace System. The UAS FTC collects data during unmanned flights in public (non-restricted) airspace to assist the FAA in the development of standards and regulations for UAS operators.
Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the UAS FTC specializes in unmanned systems flight testing and provides the capability to test several classes of UAS in a common area. The UAS FTC operates under an FAA Certificate of Authorization (CoA) that permits UAS flights in over 15,000 square miles of coordinated airspace in southwestern New Mexico. The airspace, which extends from the surface to 18,000 feet mean sea level, features a very low volume of aviation traffic and overlays mostly undeveloped government-owned land.
UAS operators can access the airspace from several airports located within the lateral boundaries of the operating area, including Las Cruces (LRU), Lordsburg (SLB), Grant County (SVC), and Socorro (ONM).
UAS FTC processes provide rapid airspace access
The UAS FTC follows FAA-approved procedures that allow federal and civilian UAS manufacturers and operators an alternative to CoA and experimental aircraft certification processes. The time from initial inquiry to first flight can be a matter of weeks. Candidates begin the process by completing a Web-based system analysis guide that acquires information on the UAS performance characteristics, command and control systems, operations and mission, and failure management systems. The UAS FTC assesses this information within the context of the planned UAS flight operations to establish operating guidelines tailored to each system’s capabilities. Once initial system analysis is complete and operational limitations are established, proponents follow the “file and fly” concept within the CoA airspace allowing them to rapidly plan and execute flight operations.
The UAS FTC collects, analyzes, and archives data on systems throughout the planning and operations process; the FAA will use this data to support the development of procedures and regulations necessary to integrate UAS technologies into the national airspace. The UAS FTC executes non-disclosure agreements with each proponent and follows industrial security practices to safeguard proprietary information.
UAS FTC benefits include lower costs and complete UAS support
The cost per flight hour at the UAS FTC provides the best value for all users. In addition, flexible scheduling practices and vast airspace allow the UAS FTC to accommodate a wide range of UAS operations.
The UAS FTC operates its own UAS fleet, ranging from small battery-powered units to complex medium-altitude systems, and has a trained staff of aircrew, engineers, and technicians available to supplement customer teams. Facilities include a 15,000 square foot hangar at the Las Cruces International Airport dedicated exclusively to UAS operations, and office facilities and technical support are available on the campus of NMSU. The UAS FTC also operates a fully enclosed UAS propulsion test facility with digital data acquisition systems, dynamometer capacity to 100 horsepower, and the capability to control temperature and relative humidity inside the test chamber.
For more information about the Flight Test Center or to discuss using your system with our facility please contact Dennis Zaklan at (575) 646-9417.