The University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering opened an outdoor flight facility, called Fearless Flight Facility (F3), where students and faculty can test unmanned aircraft systems.
The school hopes the facility will foster innovation in flight control, sensing, autonomy, collaboration and counter-UAS.
“The University of Maryland continues to make incredible strides in autonomy and robotics. Facilities like this one provide the real-world testing conditions that enable innovative breakthroughs,” Clark School dean and Farvardin professor of aerospace engineering Darryll Pines said in a press release. “F3 allows us to pursue an aggressive UAS research agenda that would not be possible without the protection of a netted enclosure.”
At 100 feet wide, 300 feet long and 50 feet high, the facility offers a space for drone testing previously unavailable to researchers, who would have to conduct tests in labs or not at all.
F3 is the first university outdoor flight lab in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region, which is one of the most highly restricted airspaces in the country. Drones cannot be flown within a 15-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport without permission from the federal government. However, because the facility is considered indoors due to its black net covering, the restrictions don’t apply.
The netting though still allows researchers to test fly their drones in real world wind and weather conditions.
“With F3, we can conduct cohesive, comprehensive research and education programs in concept and development, testing and evaluation, and life-cycle testing,” Department of Aerospace Engineering professor and chair Norman M. Wereley said in the statement.