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FreeFlight Systems gets FAA nod to test UAS avionicsFreeFlight Systems gets FAA nod to test UAS avionics

FreeFlight Systems, a NextGen avionics manufacturer based in Waco, Texas, announced that it has been granted FAA approval to test Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast and radar-altimetry applications designed to help safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System.
A carbon-fiber drone with GPS tracking lifts off. iStock photo.

The FAA granted FreeFlight Systems an exemption from Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which gives the Secretary of Transportation “the authority to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely” in the National Airspace System.

“This authority is being leveraged to grant case-by-case authorization for certain unmanned aircraft to perform commercial operations prior to the finalization of the Small UAS Rule, which will be the primary method for authorizing small UAS operations once it is complete,” the FAA explains its website dedicated to the Section 333 exemption process. As of May 31, the agency had granted 5,291 exemption petitions.

FreeFlight Systems said its exemption would let the company use its 300-acre flight-test facility for the development of “a host of applicable ground and airborne equipment.”

“FreeFlight Systems is well positioned to advance ADS-­B applications in the UAS sector of the NAS. These include sense-and-avoid and other applications promoting safe UAS operation and manned / unmanned airspace integration,” the company said in a news release.

The exemption “is very important in providing us the opportunity to advance our proven, highly successful, certified manned aircraft solutions for UAS applications,” said John DeBusk, FreeFlight Systems’ chief technology officer.

FreeFlight Systems was founded in 2001. The company offers solutions that “deliver substantial safety, cost, environmental, and other benefits from the NextGen airspace transformation.” FreeFlight Systems pioneered the first certified aviation WAAS/GPS receiver and the first rule-­compliant universal access transceiver (UAT) ADS-B system, the company said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Unmanned Aircraft, ADSB, Technology

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