Unmanned and Autonomous Aerial Systems Research @NPS
Excellence in education and research in the area of autonomous systems is one of NPS' strategic goals. This includes unmanned and autonomous aerial systems.
These systems have proven to be an extremely valuable assets within many industries. They have also proven to be effective when used as a weapon.
These days, Federal Aviation Administration slowly opens the national airspace to small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) and sets its own rules for sUAS fliers (www.faa.gov/uas). However, being a part of the government, NPS has to follow and comply with a set of even stricter constraints and regulations as imposed by the DoD and DoN.
While these constraints and regulations may seem too complex and unnecessary for an educational institution, it is a goal of the NPS Research Office (and this website) to consolidate and streamline them to assist our educators and researchers to fulfil their mission of providing relevant and unique advanced education and research in the most effective way.
Towards this goal NPS has established the NPS UAS Ops Executive Board that consist of Associate Dean of Research and Assistant Chief of Staff for Aviation Activities. The Executive Board meets monthly, on the second Friday of the month, at noon, in Gl-232. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Operations of Navy-owned outdoor sUAS in general are regulated by
- COMNAVAIRFORINST 3710.9, Guidance for the Operation of Department of Navy Group 1 and 2 Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 20 Nov 2017, and are further specified as applied to NPS in
- NPSINST 3700.1A, Naval Postgraduate School Aircraft Systems Training and Operating Procedures, 24 June 2013
In short, an NPS faculty, staff or student wishing to operate sUAS needs to follow a four-step procedure:
- Make sure that his/her sUAS is covered by one of two NPS’ Interim Flight Clearances (IFC) issued by NAVAIR AirWorks. This also includes reviewing the IFC (and Standard Operating Procedure for NPS sUAS) and understanding relevant limitations and restrictions for flying NPS sUAS
- Make sure his/her sUAS is added to the NPS’ sUAS inventory
- Complete AND pass a baseline UAS Medical Certification Exam
- Complete two of four basic UAS qualification (BUQ) levels – BUQ-I: VFR in Class E, G, combat/restricted airspace < 1200, and BUQ-II: VFR in Class D, E, G, combat/restricted airspace < 1800 AGL, at jko.jfcom.mil
Following these four steps results in an Air Vehicle Operator designation letter issued, which permits scheduling a test site. (Note, scheduling a test site typically requires a 90-day lead-time unless you are joining other researchers with their tests scheduled already.)
The aforementioned procedure is explained on this website in more detail.
Group 1 UAS: typically less than 21 pounds in weight; normally operates below 1200 feet above ground level (AGL) at speed less than 250 knots (Raven, most of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) drones)
Group 2 UAS: typically are in the 21 – 55 pound weight class; normally operates below 3500 feet AGL at speed less than 250 knots (Scan Eagle)