MassDevelopment has selected Plymouth, Massachusetts-based Avwatch to operate and manage the Massachusetts Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Ranges at Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC) and other test sites in Massachusetts, MassDevelopment announced.
Avwatch, which delivers aerial reconnaissance, real-time full motion video, and tactical networking services to government and commercial clients, was selected for its expertise in aerial reconnaissance, and testing and evaluating aerial systems. Avwatch will assure regulatory compliance in the performance of UAS testing activities and provide operational support for UAS test range customers and users.
The Test Ranges and the Massachusetts UAS Test Center (MAUASTC) at JBCC will offer opportunities for existing businesses to expand current operations, as well as promote the development of new business opportunities in the fields of UAS platforms, control systems and payload/sensor development.
In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) Alliance, a group of organizations in Massachusetts and New York, would operate one of six test sites in the United States for the development of safe standards for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System. Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, acts as the partnership’s lead site with MassDevelopment managing testing facilities at JBCC.
“MassDevelopment is proud to partner with Avwatch as the operator and manager of the Massachusetts Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Ranges at Joint Base Cape Cod,” said Carter Hunt, vice president of Defense Sector Initiatives at MassDevelopment and executive director of the Massachusetts UAS Test Center. “JBCC offers one of the premier locations for unmanned aerial systems testing due to the availability of airspace, weather, and landscape diversity combined with the concentration of industry and academic expertise in Massachusetts. Aeronautics companies should consider Joint Base Cape Cod for their UAS testing needs.”
Joint Base Cape Cod is a 22,000-acre historic military base that is a uniquelyorganized joint installation with components from the Army National Guard (Camp Edwards), Air National Guard (Otis Air National Guard Base), United States Coast Guard (Air Station Cape Cod), and United States Air Force (6th Space Warning Squadron PavePAWS), training for missions at home and overseas, conducting airborne search and rescue missions, and operating intelligence command and control.
“We are very pleased to have been chosen by MassDevelopment for this critical stage in UAS development,” said Avwatch founder and President Chris Kluckhuhn. “Our extensive experience makes us a turnkey provider to grow UAS operations in Massachusetts. We look forward to working with our project partners to make Massachusetts a Worldwide Center of Excellence for Maritime UAS Operations.”
According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the UAS industry is projected to create an estimated 70,000 new jobs nationwide by 2017 and more than 100,000 by 2025. Total US economic impact of the UAS industry will reach $82 billion by 2025.
Founded in 2008, Avwatch is a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business which delivers highly advanced operational expertise deploying UAS technologies in the safest way possible, including experience with joint environments, which involve flying manned and unmanned aircraft safely in the same area. The company will establish Joint Base Cape Cod as a headquarters to support both domestic and foreign UAS operations. The UAS operations will provide maritime domain awareness, persistent fisheries surveillance, marine mammal patrols, shark patrols, and will increase public safety with search and rescue and disaster response.
According to the company, it “harnesses innovative and proven technologies to support, enhance, and train federal, state, and local government agencies in support of homeland security and disaster recovery,” and that its “team is comprised of nationally recognized homeland security experts who are well-versed in military, federal, state, and local disaster response planning and response protocols.”
MassDevelopment is Massachusetts’ finance and development agency which works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY 2014, MassDevelopment financed or managed 314 projects generating investment of more than $2.9 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create more than 6,300 jobs and build or rehabilitate more than 1,600 residential units.
Meanwhile, Marc Scribner, a fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in response to FAA’s decision to allow Amazon to test its drones that, “Contrary to the hype, the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent decision to issue an experimental airworthiness certification does not represent any progress on the part of the agency with respect to unmanned aircraft systems. The agency’s March 19 press release was a public relations play designed to divert attention away from its failure to meet deadlines set by Congress, nothing more.”
“The FAA will still fail to comply with a 2012 congressional mandate to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System by the end of September 2015,” Scribner said, noting that, “Experimental airworthiness certificates like the one issued to Amazon expressly prohibit any commercial activity, and Amazon will only be able to test its unmanned rotorcraft below 400 feet, the operator must remain within constant visual line-of-sight, it must be operated by a licensed pilot and any minor design modification will require Amazon to restart the airworthiness certification process with the FAA.”
“To be sure,” Scribner stated, “Amazon will likely appreciate the explicit permission to test its prototype, but until a reasonable certification process for commercial UAS exists, the FAA will continue holding back innovators in this very promising field."