U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces $2.6 Million in 14 Drone Grants to Universities

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding $2.6 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 Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).

There are currently 1.7 million drones in the active UAS fleet. That number is expected to grow to 2.2 million by 2023. The grants are aimed at continuing and enhancing the safe and successful integration of drones into the nation’s 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,” said Secretary Chao. “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 grants are to advance specific goals and projects. The COE universities to receive a total of $2,578,071 for all four grants the awards include:

Research Project: UAS Flight Data Collection and Analysis Phase II

Implementation of the Data Collection System from Phase I for the Information Sets that are not focused on hazards and mitigations.

University of North Dakota (ND)–lead university–$74,953

University of Alaska, Fairbanks (AK) – $25,000

Research Project: UAS Safety Case Development, Process Improvement, and Data Collection

Develop system to capture/categorize test objectives; Analyze data captured to inform development of regulatory products; Facilitate query and reporting of data in consistent format across UAS Test Sites.

University of North Dakota (ND)–lead university–$545,000

New Mexico State University (NM)–$149,999

University of Alaska, Fairbanks (AK) – $260,000

Kansas State University (KS)–$200,000

Mississippi State University (MS)–$150,000

The Ohio State University (OH)–$174,958

Research Project: Develop Risk-Based Training and Standards for Operational Approval and Issuance

Develop and evaluate the risk-based framework throughout the waiver review process, and document gaps/shortfalls of the framework as it applies to UAS operations review process for Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations with a Visual Observer.

Kansas State University (KS)–lead university–$198,161

University of North Dakota (ND)- $150,000

University of Alaska, Fairbanks (AK) – $150,000

Research Project:   Establish UAS Pilot Proficiency Requirements 

Inform FAA regulations and industry standards addressing single pilot and multiple UAS operations.

Oregon State University (OR)–lead university–$248,000

Drexel University (PA)–$192,000

Kansas State University (KS)–$60,000

TOTAL for all four grants:  $2,578,071

The FAA’s COE program is a long-term, cost-sharing partnership between academia, industry and government. Authorized by Congress under the FAA’s Research, Engineering and Development Authorization Act of 1990, this legislation enables the FAA to work with center members and affiliates to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety, as well as to engage in other activities to assure a safe and efficient air transportation system.

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.

“The Centers program provides a unique opportunity for focusing education, research and technology transfer resources in an unprecedented manner, and to substantially promote, upgrade and expand transportation education and research opportunities in America,” said Chao.