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FAA awards $7.5M in research grants for integration of drones into national airspace

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding $7.5 million in research, education, and training grants to universities that comprise the agency’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).

This $7.5-million federal investment will fund university research on the safe integration of drones into our national airspace.

— US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao

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

The COE universities received a total of $7,495,178 to advance specific goals and projects. This is the third round of ASSURE grants for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. These latest grants bring the FY 2020 year-to-date award amount for this COE to $13,363,638. The latest grant awards include:

Validation of Low-Altitude Detect and Avoid Standards–Safety Research Center

The tasking for this work validates prior research in the performance of human pilots to detect other air traffic, assesses the potential for conflict, and analyzes potential maneuver options for avoidance against an intruder aircraft when a potential conflict exists.

Mississippi State University – lead University $1,450,000

Safety Risks and Mitigations for UAS Operations On and Around Airports

This research is focused on safely integrating UAS operations with airport operations, on and around airport surfaces with manned aircraft operations, and on and around the same surfaces. The depth of research expertise at the universities involved affords the selection of a set of experts to spearhead a specific use case and shepherd the constructs of each use case through completion.

University of Alaska, Fairbanks – lead University $401,999
Kansas State University $220,000
New Mexico State University $320,000
University of Alabama, Huntsville $219,815
University of North Dakota $320,000

Science and Research Panel (SARP) Support

The purpose of this grant is to provide research focused on identifying research opportunities and gaps between SARP stakeholders, coordinating awareness of the research opportunities, and identifying ways stakeholders can work together to resolve research gaps to the benefit of the research community.

University of Alabama, Huntsville – lead University $70,383

Identify Wake Turbulence and Flutter Testing Requirements for UAS

The research team consisting of the University of Kansas and the Ohio State University will work together to:

  1. Identify severities of UAS flight upset due to wake turbulence to help the FAA assess risk of upset and to develop policy, guidance, and procedures for mitigating UAS wake turbulence encounters; and

  2. Demonstrate safe flutter flight testing procedures for UAS.

University of Kansas – lead University $800,000
The Ohio State University $698,921

Urban Air Mobility (UAM): Safety Standards, Aircraft Certification and Impact on Market Feasibility and Growth Potentials

The vision to revolutionize mobility within metropolitan areas is a new frontier in aviation. Supporting accessible air transport systems for passengers and cargo by working with the urban air mobility (UAM) community to identify and address the opportunities and key challenges ahead is an emerging role for the FAA.

Wichita State University – lead University $450,000
Mississippi State University $315,000
North Carolina State University $184,999
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University $249,923

UAS Standards Tracking, Mapping, and Analysis

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology is evolving rapidly and the FAA is working to keep pace with industry and to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System. A gap in UAS integration is having standards developed by industry which the FAA can use for policy and rulemaking activity.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – lead University $264,900
University of North Dakota $235,000

Cybersecurity and Safety Literature Review

The proposed work will complete a literature review of cybersecurity concerns and resulting potential safety issues with the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). The aim of the work is to support the establishment of a baseline model to identify and assess cybersecurity related risks of integrating UAS into the NAS, and undertake a survey of strategies for managing such risks.

Oregon State University – lead University $200,000
New Mexico State University $150,000
University of North Dakota $144,238

Validation of ASTM Remote ID Standards–Safety Research Center

The tasking for this work operationally validates that the ASTM International (ASTM) Remote Identification (Remote ID) Broadcast standards satisfy stakeholder needs. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Remote ID states that the proposed rulemaking is intended to facilitate onboard pilot awareness of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and to also facilitate certain Detect and Avoid technologies.

Mississippi State University – lead University $750,000

The FAA has established 12 Centers of Excellence in critical topic areas focusing on: unmanned aircraft systems, alternative jet fuels and environment, general aviation safety, commercial space transportation, airliner cabin environment, aircraft noise and aviation emissions mitigation, advanced materials, general aviation research, airworthiness assurance, operations research, airport pavement and technology, and computational modeling of aircraft structures.


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