PrecisionHawk announced last week that its UAV platform, the Lancaster Mark III, has been granted the first FAA Certificate of Authorization for operation at the N.Y. test site. The fixed wing platform, a small (4ft) and lightweight (4lb) UAV, will be used by research teams out of Cornell Cooperative Extension to study agricultural advancements achievable using aerial remote sensing technology. The COA becomes one of a very small group of flight authorizations that does not require the UAV user to obtain a FAA pilot’s certificate for operation.

“The approval of this particular COA represents a very strategic and exciting step forward by the FAA,” said PrecisionHawk spokesperson Lia Reich. “By allowing the users, in this case the research teams at Cornell, to forgo the time and financial resources it requires to obtain a private pilot’s license, our UAV platform will be available for data collection at the team’s operational convenience, which is exactly the use-case we created it for.”

The Griffiss International Airport, a former Air Force base in upstate New York, was named one of the six nationwide test sites for commercial UAV testing at the end of 2013. N.Y. won the bid led by the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR). NUAIR has been playing a key role in helping the FAA map out the integration of commercial UAVs into the US airspace. The PrecisionHawk platform will be available to concentrate on several key research projects including safety of operations and data gathering in authorized airspace, UAS airworthiness standards and sense-and-avoid technologies.

“The data the Griffiss team plans to acquire and share will help the FAA in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested Northeast airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

Flights are scheduled to begin in two weeks.