Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Hoeven (R-ND) this week introduced legislation to support the research and development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technologies at the nation’s UAS test sites, including the site at Virginia Tech.

“Unmanned Aerial Systems have the potential to transform the way we manage disasters, maintain our infrastructure, administer medicine, tackle national security threats, and conduct day-to-day business,” said Sen. Warner. “UAS test sites, such as the one located at Virginia Tech, are crucial to the research and development of these technologies and I am glad to continue building on the progress we have made over the last decade.” 

“UAS play a crucial role in our country’s defense, and there is tremendous potential yet to be realized, benefiting our national security as well as our economy,” said Sen. Hoeven. “The UAS test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota, are at the center of our efforts to ensure these aircraft can be safely integrated into our national airspace. This legislation supports their ongoing work and dovetails with the new BVLOS waivers we recently secured for our test site, further strengthening North Dakota’s position in this dynamic industry.”

Specifically, this legislation:

  • Extends the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS test sites for an additional five years through 2028;
  • Formally authorizes research grants through the FAA for the purpose of demonstrating or validating technology related to the integration of UAS in the national airspace system (NAS);
  • Requires a grant recipient to have a contract with an FAA UAS test site;
  • Identifies key research priorities, including: detect and avoid capabilities; beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations; operation of multiple unmanned aircraft systems; unmanned systems traffic management; command and control; and UAS safety standards.

This legislation builds on Sen. Warner’s efforts to expand the domestic production of unmanned systems, including driverless cars, drones, and unmanned maritime vehicles and make Virginia a national leader in this growing sector. Earlier this year, he introduced the Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act, legislation that will clear the way for drones to be used for commercial transport of goods across the country. As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he has led efforts in Congress to shore up U.S. national and cybersecurity against hostile foreign governments through unmanned air systems. Last month, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to prohibit the federal government from purchasing drones manufactured in countries identified as national security threats, such as the People’s Republic of China.