Photo by Megan Bean for Mississippi State University

FAA Awards $3.3 Million to Universities for Drone Research

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding $3.3 million in research, education and training grants to universities that comprise FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).

“These grants will help develop a greater array of innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The FAA’s COE program, authorized by Congress, is a long-term, cost-sharing partnership between academia, industry, and government. The program enables the FAA to work with center members and affiliates to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety. The COE also allows the FAA to engage other transportation-related activities.

There are currently 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones in the active UAS fleet. That number is expected to grow to as high as 2.31 million by 2024. The ASSURE grants are aimed at continuing the safe and successful integration of drones into the nation’s airspace.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said, “Collaboration is hugely important as we work to safely integrate UAS into the aerospace system. These important grants fund the research which allows us to learn and implement the safety measures associated with UAS operations in the airspace.”  

This grant is for the ASSURE lead university to provide overall program management. This program management will include tracking of financial information for all core university project activities; reviewing and vetting of all project related documentation prior to submission to the FAA; hosting and facilitating all FAA-required meetings; and outreach to government, industry, and academia. Mississippi State University, as the lead university, will receive $1,290,410.

Further research will provide insight into the safe integration of UAS into the disaster preparedness and response areas. This research will look at how UAS can aid in disaster preparedness and response to different natural and human-made disasters. It will focus on procedures to coordinate with the Department of Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other federal, local and state organizations to ensure proper coordination during those emergencies. The grant awards for this research are as follows:

  • University of Alabama–Huntsville (AL)–lead university….….….$1,101,000
  • New Mexico State University (NM)………………………………… $234,000
  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks (AK)………………………….…….$245,000
  • Mississippi State University (MS)……………………………………$130,000
  • North Carolina State University  (NC)……………………………….$124,979
  • Oregon State University (OR)………………………….…………….$165,000

The COE universities received a total of $3.3 million to advance specific goals and projects. This is the second round of ASSURE grants. These new grants bring the Fiscal Year 2020 total for this COE to $5.8 million.

Read more at FAA

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