Lists Identify Entities Authorized to Operate UAVs

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Draganflyer X6 unmanned helicopter
The Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff's Office used the Draganflyer X6 UAV last September to help firefighters battle a blaze in Grand Junction, Colo. (Photo: Draganfly Innovations)
April 20, 2012, 3:18 PM

Responding to a lawsuit filed by a digital rights advocacy organization, the FAA has identified the public and private entities currently authorized to operate UAVs in U.S. domestic airspace. On April 19 the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) made available two lists that it said were released by the FAA in response to its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in federal court in January.

The lists identify private companies awarded special airworthiness certificates (SACs) to operate UAVs and the military services and public agencies in possession of FAA-issued certificates of authorization (CoAs). There are 18 active SACs and 41 active CoAs, according to the documents posted by the EFF.

SACs have been awarded for familiar and lesser known unmanned aircraft platforms, including the General Atomics Predator B, AAI Shadow, Aurora Flight Sciences GoldenEye 50, Honeywell T-Hawk, Raytheon Cobra, Unmanned Systems Sandstorm and Telford Aviation Skybus airship.

The list of public agencies awarded CoAs does not identify airframes, but does shed light on the types of organizations operating them. In addition to the U.S. military services and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the list includes several government agencies, the FBI and police departments in Arlington, Texas; North Little Rock, Ark.; Gadsden, Ala.; Ogden, Utah; and Seattle; the Mesa County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office; Polk County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office; and Miami-Dade Police. The city of Herington, Kan., plans to establish the Herington Unmanned Flight Facility (HUFF) at its regional airport.

There are a number of academic institutions listed, including Eastern Gateway Community College, Georgia Tech Research Institute and universities in Alaska, Ohio, Tennessee, Kansas, Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, Texas, North Dakota and Virginia.

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