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Governor O’Malley, New Jersey Governor Christie, Virginia Governor McDonnell Sign Letter of Support for Universities’ Collaboration on Unmanned Aircraft System Testing

MOU strengthens Mid-Atlantic region’s potential to be selected as FAA test site

Annapolis, MD  – Governor Martin O’Malley today joined New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell in submitting a letter supporting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which the University System of Maryland, Rutgers University and Virginia Tech University agreed to collaborate and partner on a Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) test site. The letter, sent to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, highlighted the cooperative UAS research conducted by the three universities.

“With the potential to create more than 2,500 well-paying jobs in Maryland over the next 12 years, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems sector has the potential to have a significant positive economic impact on our state,” said Governor O’Malley. “This is an exciting agreement between three world-class educational institutions that takes advantage of the unparalleled capabilities in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia for research, development and testing, and positions the Mid-Atlantic region as the ideal location for an Unmanned Aircraft Systems test site.”

In Maryland, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River is recognized as the world’s leading center of UAS activity. At both the university level and among federal facilities, Maryland has been testing and developing UAS technology for more than two decades. Maryland’s UAS proposal, submitted to the FAA in May, includes the University System of Maryland campuses in College Park, Baltimore County and Eastern Shore, general aviation airports in Crisfield and St. Mary’s County, federal and industry partners and community organizations such as the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, the Patuxent Partnership, and the Joint Atlantic and Chesapeake Range Collaborative.

“We are thankful to our entire Congressional delegation, especially Congressman Steny Hoyer, who worked diligently to grow this coalition, the universities for their spirit of cooperation, and to partner companies in each state whose support is testament to the potential of this initiative,” said Governor O’Malley.

“This memorandum of understanding between the University System of Maryland, Rutgers University, and Virginia Tech significantly strengthens our bid for one of six UAS test site designations chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration,” stated Congressman Hoyer. “With the presence of three outstanding higher education institutions; federal facilities, such as Pax River Naval Air Station and Webster Field; and strong industry partners, I’m optimistic that we are strongly positioned in the bidding process. I thank Governor O’Malley, Governor Christie, and Governor McDonnell, as well as our three universities, for partnering on this effort, which has the potential to spur private sector development through the commercialization of autonomous systems and boost job creation in our region.”

Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress authorized the FAA to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System. In February 2013, the FAA opened the selection process for the six UAS Test Sites that will conduct research and testing of technologies to support the UAS integration.

“The partnership between the University System of Maryland and leading institutions in Virginia and New Jersey will help increase the safety, efficiency, reliability and security of our nation’s airspace,” Senator Barbara Mikulski said. “Because of Maryland’s incredible federal assets, dynamic private sector and academic institutions, Maryland is well-suited to work together with the FAA on the Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Through this Mid-Atlantic collaboration, we will enhance the safety of our nation’s airspace, while supporting Maryland’s economic security through jobs today and jobs tomorrow.”

“Maryland has the world-class facilities, supporting systems, and controlled airspace necessary to satisfy the stringent requirements needed to become an FAA test site for unmanned aircraft systems. I applaud the collaboration between the University System of Maryland, Rutgers University and Virginia Tech that will enable this cutting-edge project to move forward, improving the safety and efficiency of our national airspace network, and helping to create more than 2,500 jobs in Maryland,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “I am proud that Team Maryland has been able to facilitate this project at the federal level, bringing together diverse and innovative research teams who will balance new technology, national security and infrastructure needs, along with public policy and legal concerns.”

With the University of Maryland, College Park, taking the lead, Maryland applied to be selected by the FAA as one of six test sites for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. New Jersey and Virginia submitted a joint application as the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, under Virginia Tech. The three universities subsequently determined that the region’s competitive position is significantly enhanced as a multi-state entity which leverages the competitive strengths of each state. The universities have agreed to work as a united Joint Test Team in the event either or both teams are selected by the FAA as a Test Site for UAS.

Fifty applications across 37 states were submitted to the FAA through May 6, 2013, and 25 applicants remain. A decision is due December 31, 2013.

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