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USDOT Awards $5.8 Million in 33 UAS University Research Grants
North Dakota Ag Connection - 01/28/2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced $5.8 million in research, education and training grants to universities that comprise FAA's Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).

"These universities are making great strides in advancing the Department's efforts to integrate UAS safely and efficiently into our Nation's airspace system, ultimately delivering new transportation solutions and economic benefits for the American people," Acting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Steven G. Bradbury said.

The FAA's Center of Excellence for UAS is advancing the administration's transportation and economic goals that air travel provides to the nation. The Center of Excellence UAS universities received a total of $5,822,990 to advance specific goals and projects.

"These universities are making great strides in advancing our efforts to safely and efficiently integrate UAS into our nation's airspace system," said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. "Each grant is designed to explore the questions that will lead to greater UAS and unmanned air carrier integration, which will ultimately deliver new transportation solutions and economic benefits for the American people."

More than 1.7 million recreational and commercial drones are 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 and enhancing the safe and successful integration of drones into the nation's airspace system (NAS).

The FAA has established 13 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 and intermodal transportation research; aircraft noise and aviation emissions mitigation; advanced materials; general aviation research; airworthiness assurance; operations research; airport pavement and technology; computational modeling of aircraft structures; and technical training and human performance.

The first round of ASSURE grants for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 were awarded in eight research areas.

- Air Carrier Operations--Investigate and Identify the Key Differences Between Commercial Air Carrier Operations and Unmanned Transport Operations

This research will provide findings, recommendations and lessons learned that will enhance the FAA's understanding of the requirements for certifying large UAS for air carrier operations.

Specific focus of this evaluation will analyze projected demand by location (e.g. rural, exurb, suburb, or urban) and the feasibility of commercial UAS air carrier operations. It will also explore the role of autonomy in UAS vehicles beginning with operations in less risky areas such as rural locations to exurbs (areas beyond the suburbs), and then on to more populated areas of suburban and metro areas. This exploration will focus on the passenger transportation environment, and investigate the workforce impact of this new capability.

University of North Dakota $130,000

- UAS Cargo Operations--From Manned Cargo to UAS Cargo Operations: Future Trends, Performance, Reliability, and Safety Characteristics Towards Integration into the NAS

This research will evaluate the feasibility of commercial UAS cargo operations together with the projected demand by location. Furthermore, the research will detail anticipated needs of the FAA to support further integration of UAS cargo operations, including how greater autonomy may provide an improved level of safety.

University of North Dakota $60,000

- Mitigating GPS and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Risks for UAS

This research is necessary to enable safe and secure automated sUAS navigation and safe and secure automated sUAS Detect and Avoid operations. Unvalidated or unavailable GPS and "ADS-B In" data poses security and safety risks to automated UAS navigation and to Detect and Avoid operations. Erroneous, spoofed, jammed, or drop outs of GPS data may result in unmanned aircraft position and navigation being incorrect.

University of North Dakota -- Lead University $325,000

- Shielded UAS Operations--Detect and Avoid (DAA)

This research is intended to identify risks and recommend solutions to the FAA that can enable shielded UAS operations such as a flight within close proximity to existing obstacles and not to exceed the height of the obstacle. This effort will identify risks, determine whether shielded operations can be made safe, to what degree UAS Detect and Avoid requirements can be reduced, and recommend UAS standoff distances from manned aircraft and ground obstacles, including buildings and air traffic control towers.

University of North Dakota -- Lead University $430,000

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