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Arizona won’t be test site for drones

drone-620Arizona’s bid to become a test site for unmanned drones was rejected Monday as federal officials picked six other proposals.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the six diverse test sites will give the agency the best chance of meeting its congressional mandate to ensure that the vehicles can be safely integrated into airspace with piloted craft. In a formal release, the agency said the sites provide the needed diversity.

That diversity includes two sites in the Southwest: Nevada and Texas. That, coupled with Alaska, New York, North Dakota and Virginia, left Arizona out of the running.

Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, who had introduced legislation earlier this year in hopes of improving the state’s chances, told Capitol Media Services he believes politics was involved in the final choices. But pressed for specifics, Forese provided none, other than a generic charge.

“Is there anything that’s not political?” he asked. “It is what it is.”

But Forese said he does not believe this is the end of the matter. He said Arizona now could try to partner with one of the winning states to share some of the mission, perhaps in training “pilots” to fly the remote-controlled devices.

The FAA action follows 2012 federal legislation to establish six test sites. The law required the agency, in consultation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense, to consider geographic diversity, climate diversity, location of necessary infrastructure already on the ground as well as research needs.

Submissions were received from 25 entities in 24 states.

“We believe we had a good, competitive application,” said Andrew Wilder, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer. The governor herself made a personal bid earlier this year during a trip to Washington, meeting with officials from FAA and the Department of Transportation.

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