FAA awards $3.3M in drone grants to universities

August 7, 2020  - By
Photo: PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $3.3 million in research, education and training grants to universities that comprise the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 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 Chao.

The FAA’s CEO 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, FAA said.

Mississippi State University received the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through ASSURE Program Management grant for $1,290,410. 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, FAA said.

Six universities, including the University of Alabama–Huntsville ($1,101,000), New Mexico State University ($234,000), the University of Alaska, Fairbanks ($245,000), Mississippi State University ($130,000), North Carolina State University ($124,979) and Oregon State University ($165,000) received grants for Disaster Preparedness and Response (Phase I and II, as directed by Congress). According to FAA, this 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.

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, FAA reported. The ASSURE grants are aimed at continuing the safe and successful integration of drones into the nation’s airspace.

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

The COE universities received a total of $3.3 million to advance specific goals and projects. This is the second round of ASSURE grants. The grants listed above will bring the fiscal year 2020 total for this COE to $5.8 million.

About the Author: Allison Kral

Allison Kral is the former digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Pit & Quarry magazine, Portable Plants magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.