We may be seeing a serious step in the evolution of drone aircraft with the inauguration of the first-ever drone only air corridor in the United States. Oklahoma State University researchers are asking for FAA permission to allow unrestricted UAV flights between airspace over-and-around Fort Sill, Okla., and the old Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base about 60-miles away.
This is huge because drones are heavily restricted in crowded domestic airspace. By restricted I mean it's damn hard to get clearance fly one outside military airspace in the continental U.S. due to FAA concerns about collisions with manned aircraft.
Specifically, OSU is pushing for unrestricted flights of the Tigershark UAV between the privately-run Oklahoma Training Center for Unmanned Systems next to Fort Sill and Clinton-Sherman, an old SAC base.
Here's Oklahoma's secretary of science and technology, Stephen McKeever (who also directs Oklahoma State University's Multispectral Laboratory, the organization pushing for the air corridor) on how this program could help the FAA with its mandate to open up national airspace to UAVs by 2015:
“The corridor is part of an overall plan in which OSU and the UML are working in partnership with the FAA to use UAVs to assist the FAA in testing electronic instrument landing systems at all commercial airports in the U.S. and elsewhere,” he said. “The (certificates of authorization) will help, ultimately, to open the national airspace to unmanned vehicle flights.”
“All together, this is part of Oklahoma’s plan to develop the infrastructure within the state in a coordinated fashion to attract UAV manufacturers to use Oklahoma as the center of their test and evaluation plans,” he said. “Truly exponential growth will happen when U.S. airspace is opened to UAVs.”