With New Mexico’s flight space larger than any of the nine smaller states and nearly as large as New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined (over 15,000 square miles with access from ground to 18,000 feet above sea level), Doña Ana County is the Right Space for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) integrators, manufacturers, and testing agencies. Our region boasts strong assets that lend well to the quickly growing industry. Southern New Mexico’s consistent climate is conducive to year-round testing with more than 340 excellent flying days per year.
New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Physical Science Laboratory (PSL) Flight Test Center is the only Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA)-designated UAS flight center in the United States. As an extension to the FAA’s pursuit to generate workable policies of UAS operations within commercial airspace, the PSL Flight Test Center (FTC) has been an integral driver in providing data to companies and the FAA on the operations of unmanned aerial systems. PSL also partners with our regional military installations.
Testing of UAS weapon systems occurs at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and Holloman Air Force Base. The airspace over WSMR is controlled completely by the Department of Defense, making it one of two places in the country where there is no influence of commercial air traffic; the other location is the White House. WSMR’s area covers a broad variation of terrain, and this affords a variety of testing environments and conditions.
The FAA signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) in February with NMSU, which formalized the establishment of a one-of-a-kind FTC, which is headquartered at the Las Cruces International Airport in New Mexico. The CRDA takes advantage of southern New Mexico’s unique airspace conditions and NMSU’s considerable research, development, testing, and evaluation experience with UAS. The FTC will be the facility where government and private research, development, and testing of UAS will be conducted. Research and development is expected to be performed in such areas as establishing standard UAS regulations, as well as providing new technology for homeland security, agriculture, defense, and science operations, to name a few areas.
Currently, there are no standards for routine deployment of UAS in the national airspace. There are only two ways for a UAS to gain access to the national airspace: the FAA can either grant an experimental airworthiness certificate or issue a certificate of authorization. Accordingly, NMSU has been issued a certificate of authorization for the FTC, which includes airspace and operating airports in southern New Mexico. Nearly, all the property located beneath the new FTC’s airspace is owned by either the state or federal government, or NMSU itself.
Call us today to explore the many opportunities in the growing UAS industry.