The N.C. Department of Transportation, North Carolina State University and other partners are working collaboratively to establish a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) field at Hyde County Airport. Other agencies collaborating on the project include the N.C. Department of Commerce, the aviation science department at Elizabeth City State University, Hyde County government and the N.C. Northeast Economic Development Commission. The RPA airspace is planned to open in 2013.
Officials say thay Hyde County Airport (7W6) is well situated to serve the needs of RPA developers. Surrounded by agricultural fields and adjacent to restricted military airspace, the area is commonly excluded from commercial flight paths. Unmanned flights would be coordinated around general aviation at the airport.
A typical remotely piloted aircraft weighs less than 40 pounds and has a wingspan of less than 10 feet, creating a minimum of noise. RPA pilots must hold Federal Aviation Administration licenses and a certificate of authorization to use the field.
The RPA operation will be affiliated with the NextGen Air Transportation Center in Raleigh, established in 2008 to support application-oriented research and field trials in aviation technology. The center is located at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State.
Aviation field research and testing is aligned with Gov. Bev Perdue's proposed budget that supports job creation opportunities throughout the state.