The US Federal Aviation Administration and unmanned aerial system maker Boeing Insitu have drawn up a cooperative research and development agreement to study drones in civil airspace for the next two years.
The information gathered will help in the development of recommendations for integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.
Insitu, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, is providing the FAA with two ScanEagle vehicles, two ground control systems, a launcher, SkyHook retrieval system and training materials worth around $1.6 million, plus the necessary training and support over the life of the two-year agreement.
© US Air Force
The FAA is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking on UAS in the first quarter of 2011.
The agency has already accepted InSitu's recommendation of defining a "small UAS" as 25kg (55lb) or lighter, said Paul McDuffee, Insitu's vice-president of commercial business development.