FAA clears Textron Systems to begin Aerosonde SUAS Operations with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership


The Aerosonde during Textron’s first flight under this COA. The test flight took place on November 19 outside Blackstone, Va.

Textron Inc.’s unmanned systems division recently received a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA, enabling the company’s Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aircraft System to begin operations with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), one of six authorized FAA test sites. The first test flight was held Nov. 19 outside Blackstone, Va.

Through this COA, Aerosonde’s test and research flights will place an emphasis on enabling unmanned aircraft system integration into the national airspace, according to a news release. They will also help prove the agricultural and environmental applications unmanned systems are capable of, while also developing safety, operations and training protocols between MAAP, the local airspace authority and Textron Systems to ensure safe, efficient flight operations. Aerosonde’s test and research flights will be conducted in Blackstone, Va.

Virginia Tech leads MAAP, which also includes academic, government and industry partners from a variety of organizations across Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, according to the release.

The Aerosonde system has been used in scientific, environmental and military applications, as well as to support oil and gas security in the Middle East. The SUAS features multi-mission flexibility for a variety of applications and can be equipped with a range of payloads, including advanced electro-optic/infrared payloads for day-and-night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as communications relay and others in a single flight.

“We have just begun to scratch the surface of what unmanned systems can accomplish for our communities, our economies and our world,” says Vice President, Small/Medium-Endurance UAS David Phillips of Textron Systems, according to the release. “Textron Systems brings valuable experience gained through nearly a million flight hours across our unmanned platforms. Under this COA, I look forward to working with all of the distinguished organizations participating in the MAAP — from academic institutions such as Virginia Tech and Liberty University, to specialized industry experts like UAV PRO — to accelerate our proven Aerosonde system toward new applications in the NAS.”

For more information, visit textronsystems.com.