Federal Aviation Administration awards nearly $2.6M in drone grants to universities

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The Federal Aviation Administration will give nearly $2.6 million in grants to universities for research into drones.

The FAA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the universities will comprise the agency’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems(AUS), also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).

According to the FAA, there are 1.7 million drones in the AUS fleet, which is expected to grow to 2.2 million by 2023. The grants are for enhancing the safe and successful integration of drones into American airspace.

“The research funded by these grants will provide valuable data as the Department leads the way to chart a course for the safe integration of drones into our national airspace,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said. “In addition to providing grants, we are also supporting activities that provide operational experience like the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, all of which move us more quickly toward full integration.”

The four different grants are provided for specific projects and goals. Grants were distributed to 14 universities across the country.

The first grant was for the UAS Flight Data Collection and Analysis Phase II. It looks at the implementation of the Data Collection System from Phase I for the Information Sets that are not focused on hazards and mitigations and will be given to the University of North Dakota and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

A second grant, the UAS Safety Case Development, Process Improvement, and Data Collection, would develop a system to capture/categorize test objectives; analyze the data captured and facilitate reporting the data across the UAS Test sites. That grant was awarded to the University of North Dakota; New Mexico State University; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Kansas State University; Mississippi State University; and The Ohio State University.

The third grant, Risk-Based Training and Standards for Operational Approval and Issuance, will develop and evaluate the risk-based framework to UAS operating beyond the visual line of sight. That grant will be split by Kansas State University; University of North Dakota; and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Finally, the last grant would establish the UAS Pilot Proficiency requirement, and it would be split between Oregon State University, Drexel University, and Kansas State University.

Together, the four grants total $2,578,071.