September 19, 2020
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The Federal Aviation Administration awarded $3.3 million in research, education, and training grants to help develop a “greater array of innovative strategies” so unnamed aerial systems – known as UAS or drones – can be more effectively deployed during emergency response situations.

[Above photo by the NCDOT.]

The agency said that grant money will go to universities that comprise the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence or COE for UAS, also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence or ASSURE.

Stephen Dickson

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

The agency pointed out that its COE 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.

The FAA added there are currently 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones in the active UAS fleet – a number expected to grow to as high as 2.31 million by 2024.

Meanwhile, state departments of transportation continue working on ways to integrate drones safely into their daily operations. One example is the drone demonstration and roundtable discussion forum held during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2019 Spring Meeting in Park City, UT.

State DOTs have also been integral in helping commercial drone operations. For example, a new drone-based delivery subsidiary launched by United Parcel Service in 2019 – called UPS Flight Forward, Inc. – developed from a pilot program in partnership with drone maker Matternet whereby to deliver medical samples for WakeMed hospitals in Raleigh, N.C.; a program overseen by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

editor@aashto.org

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