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US Transportation Secretary Chao announces USD3.3 million in seven drone grants to Universities

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced this week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded USD3.3 million in research, education and training grants to universities that comprise FAA’s Air Transportation Centre of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), reports ajot.com.

Chao commented, “These grants will help develop a greater array of innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations.”

The FAA’s COE program, authorised by Congress, is a long-term, cost-sharing partnership between academia, industry, and government. The program enables the FAA to work with centre members and affiliates to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety. The COE also allows the FAA to engage other transportation-related activities.

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

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

The program management includes 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.

This is the second round of ASSURE grants. Universities involved include Mississippi State (USD1.29m), Alabama-Huntsville (USD1.1m), New Mexico State (USD245,000) and North Carolina State (USD125,000). The concessions announced today bring the Fiscal Year 2020 total for this COE to USD5.8 million.

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