Washington is joining the crowded competition to land one of six federal drone testing facilities across the country.
A consortium of 10 state organizations, including the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, announced Thursday that they will be submitting a bid soon to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Research and tests conducted at the winning sites will help the FAA figure out how to integrate a wide range of unmanned aircraft into the nation’s air traffic system.
“It’s a huge opportunity for the state,” said Tim Priest, chief marketing and development officer for Innovate Washington, the state agency coordinating the proposal.
The Washington proposal would use the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake as its main testing hub. With one of the longest runways in the United States, the airport has been used as a testing ground for Boeing aircraft and was considered as a rocket spaceport.
Five other test sites would be scattered across the state, from Gray’s Harbor on the coast to agricultural areas in Central Washington, and the forests of Eastern Washington near the Canadian border.
The FAA has already received 50 bids from 37 states. The agency plans to pick the winners by the end of this year.
Victory does not bring any direct federal funding, but if Washington’s bid is successful, it will attract business, industry and research funding, said Bart Phillips, Innovate Washington’s vice president of economic development.