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Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership gets drone test site

Rutgers, Va. Tech and U.Md. will study unmanned aerial vehicle safety

The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, a joint venture by Virginia Tech, Rutgers University and the University of Maryland, has been selected to operate a Federal Aviation Administration test site for drone integration.

The FAA announced the six test sites today. The sites will conduct research on how unmanned aerial vehicles or systems, often called UAVs or UAS, can be safely integrated into regular airspace.

The three universities announced in September that they would collaborate for the test site if selected.

The FAA says the researchers will study "UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risk areas." Testing will take place in both Virginia and New Jersey, according to the FAA.

The other proposals chosen for test sites were the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, New York's Griffiss International Airport, the North Dakota Department of Commerce and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

UAVs aren't permitted to be flown for commercial purposes, and public entities -- like public research universities or law enforcement agencies -- must apply for a certificate of authorization to fly them.

The test sites announced by the FAA will conduct research to establish how both government-run and commercial UAVs can fly in the normal airspace.

"These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation's skies," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The FAA says it considered geography, climate, ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk and choosing the six sites from 25 applications.