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FAA’s third round of ASSURE grants to American universities signals big investment in drone research

It’s certainly an odd year to be in school given coronavirus, but for college students interested in studying drones, 2020 sure is something. The Federal Aviation Administration is pouring millions of dollars in ASSURE grants to American universities this year. The FAA announced this week that they would award $7.5 million to schools researching drones — the third announcement of its kind this year, and the second announcement of its kind just this month.

The FAA runs a program called the Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE). It’s set up in hopes that universities will research how to integrate drones into U.S. airspace.

And just this week, the FAA announced 19 grant awards across eight projects totaling $7,495,178.

The FAA’s ASSURE grants are divided up by various topic areas relating to drones. From there, schools receive specific amounts of money. Here are the FAA’s research areas via its ASSURE program, as well as what schools are receiving money to conduct that research (and how much money).

FAA ASSURE UAS research

Low-altitude detect and avoid standards: studying how to detect other air traffic, assessing the potential for conflict and how to potentially maneuver away from intruder aircraft in the event of a conflict.

  • Mississippi State University: $1,500,000

Safety risks and mitigations for drones near airports: studying how drone operations can integrate in airports and with manned aircraft operations.

  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks: $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): identifying other research opportunities.

  • University of Alabama, Huntsville: $70,383

Wake turbulence and flutter testing requirements: researching the risk to drones of wake turbulence. Wake turbulence is a disturbance in the atmosphere that forms behind an aircraft as it passes through the air, and it can sometimes be dangerous, especially for small aircraft following large aircraft. The schools would help develop policy, guidance, and procedures for mitigating drone wake turbulence encounters.

  • University of Kansas: $800,000
  • The Ohio State University: $698,921

Urban Air Mobility safety standards and aircraft certification: studying how drones can fly in metropolitan areas for use cases like cargo and passenger transport.

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

Drone standards: developing industry standards to help integrate drones, as well as to be used for the FAA’s policy and rulemaking activity.

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: $264,900
  • University of North Dakota: $235,000

Cybersecurity and safety: completing a literature review of cybersecurity concerns and resulting potential safety issues with the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System, to support the establishment of a baseline model to identify and assess cybersecurity related risks of integrating drones into the NAS

  • Oregon State University: $200,000
  • New Mexico State University: $150,000
  • University of North Dakota: $144,238

Validation of ASTM Remote ID Standards: Validates that the ASTM International Remote Identification Broadcast standards satisfy stakeholder needs, such as facilitating certain detect and avoid technologies, as well as pilot awareness of drones

  • Mississippi State University: $750,000

The $7.5 million investment announced this week brings the total number of funding from ASSURE grants in 2020 to $13,363,638.

That follows round two of the FAA’s ASSURE grants for 2020, which was conducted earlier this month. In that round the FAA announced that $3.3 million would be doled out to American universities to study drone use for disaster preparedness and response. Here are all the schools that received money in that round:

Drones for disaster preparedness and response: researching the safe integration of drones into disaster preparedness and response areas, as well as how drones can aid in response to different natural and human-made disasters

  • Mississippi State University –lead university: $1,290,410
  • University of Alabama–Huntsville –lead university: $1,101,000
  • New Mexico State University: $234,000
  • University of Alaska, Fairbanks: $245,000
  • Mississippi State University: $130,000
  • North Carolina State University: $124,979
  • Oregon State University: $165,000

In other college for drone news, the FAA also this month announced that it had selected 26 schools so far to participate in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI), a program to designed to better allow schools to partner with the FAA.

The 26 schools selected for the FAA’s UAS-CTI program are:

  • Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, Oregon
  • Central Oregon Community College, Bend, Oregon
  • Dakota College, Bottineau, North Dakota
  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL and Prescott, AZ
  • Green River College, Auburn, Washington
  • Gulf Coast Community College, Panama City, Florida
  • Hazard Community and Technical College, Hazard, Kentucky
  • Hinds Community College, Bolton, Mississippi
  • Idaho State University, Poncatello, Idaho
  • Indiana State University, Terra Haute, Indiana
  • MiraCosta College, Carlsbad, California
  • Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap, Virginia
  • Mountwest Community and Technical College, Huntington, West Virginia
  • Niagara Community College, Sanborn, New York
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Northeastern Technical College, Cheraw, South Carolina
  • Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls, Minnesota
  • Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse, Michigan
  • Oklahoma City Community College, Stillwater, Oklahoma
  • Palomar College District, San Marcos, California
  • Santa Rosa Junior College, Windsor, California
  • Southwestern College, Chula Vista, California
  • Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, Florida
  • University of Maine at Augusta, August, Maine
  • University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • WSU Tech, Wichita, Kansas

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