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NMSU's PSL and Holloman AFB partner to create a regional UAV Test Center

New Mexico State University's Physical Science Laboratory (PSL) and the 46th Test Group at Holloman Air Force Base will combine their efforts to produce a joint regional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Test Center (UTEC).

The Global Hawk is one of many UAV models the PSL and Holloman AFB will be testing. (Photo courtesy of PSL)

The renewable five-year partnership will pursue the attraction of UAV projects and users, with the goal of being a national resource for the UAV community. The center's potential users include various military and federal agencies, as well as industry.

"Partnering is the key to successful regional and economical development," said Kathy Hansen, director of business development at PSL. "We believe that partnering with others in the region is the strongest way to attract new companies, new money and develop jobs in the area."

The 46th Test Group and PSL will share capabilities, expertise, experience and infrastructure. The center will pursue additional partners with UAV capability and interests, focusing first on regional partnerships and later on national level stakeholders. Testing will be done at PSL, Holloman and UAV designated airspace.

UAVs are aircraft that fly without having a pilot physically on board. They range in size and shape and are used mainly by the military, although NASA and other agencies have used the vehicles for scientific research, said Hansen.

The UTEC will test different models, including the Global Hawk.

The Global Hawk "has the same wing span of a 737 (airplane), but only weighs about one-sixth as much and flies twice as high," said Bill Gutman, PSL's technical adviser. "It can fly from 300 to 400 miles per hour and can operate half away around the world" from where the operator is located.

The 46th Test Group provides diverse and flexible aerospace test capabilities for weapon system flight testing, navigation and guidance system testing, and radar signature measurement. It is the Air Force Liaison at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).

PSL has extensive expertise and capabilities for UAV test and evaluation through its UAV Technical Analysis and Applications Center (TAAC), which was established in 1999. The center's mission is the safe integration of the vehicles in the National Airspace System (NAS). TAAC is a one-stop shop for UAV operations worldwide, routine flights in civilian airspace, certification and regulatory research and validation, and platform and subsystem demonstrations.

A new program within TAAC is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Systems and Operations Validation Facility (USOVF), a unique and dedicated facility for operational and performance evaluation of military UAV systems.

PSL was awarded $2.1 million recently by the Department of Defense (DOD) for the USOVF. The facility provides the DOD with a unique short-and-long range UAV operations capability to support testing of UAV platforms and systems in civil airspace on a routine basis.

EDITORS NOTE: Officials from NMSU and Holloman will be available for interviews at the official signing of the mutual agreement at 11:30 a.m. Monday, March 3, at the PSL building, located at the corner of Stewart and Espina Streets on the NMSU campus.