Federal Aviation Administration grants waiver to Alaska for unmanned serial system

Alaska is now the only state legally allowed to have unmanned aerial system devices classified for research and development to be conducted in test-site airspace.

The Federal Aviation Administration granted the waiver recently, allowing for use of aircraft under 300 pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The waiver allows unmanned aerial system manufacturers to utilize Alaska’s airspace for certification purposes, a move that will support new economic activity. The Alaska Center for UAS Integration (ACUASI), at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is the manager of Alaska’s unmanned aerial system test site. As part of the FAA’s Beyond program, ACUASI has been granted the authority to oversee the waiver’s implementation.

ACUASI will evaluate the safety of an operator’s unmanned aircraft and related procedures, using their internal processes to ascertain whether an unmanned aerial system operation can be safely conducted. Previously, individuals who wanted to undertake such operations had to apply for a special airworthiness certificate and request exemption from several regulations, which proved to be a resource-intensive and time-consuming process for both the applicant and the FAA.

Ryan Marlow, the state’s unmanned aerial system program manager, said that the waiver allows Alaska to use its largest natural resource as a new economic driver, its airspace.

“This is a massive leap forward for UAS integration on a national level, and we look forward to supporting enhancement in airspace safety through advanced air mobility,” Marlow said.