Mississippi State University will lead a 15-university team on research regarding best ways to integrate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles into the commercial airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration said last week.
MSU was announced as the FAA's Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems after a rigorous competition, FAA said.
The Center of Excellence will focus on research, education and training in areas critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation's airspace. The FAA expects the COE will be able to begin research by September 2015 and be fully operational and engaged in a robust research agenda by January 2016.
Universities represented have a "proven commitment to UAS research and development and the necessary resources to provide the matching contribution to the government's investment," FAA said.
According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the public-private partnership with these universities will help FAA focus on the challenges and opportunities of UAVs. "We expect this team will help us to educate and train a cadre of unmanned aircraft professionals well into the future," he said.
The COE research areas are expected to evolve over time, but initially will include: detect and avoid technology; low-altitude operations safety; control and communications; spectrum management; human factors; compatibility with air traffic control operations; and training and certification of UAS pilots and other crewmembers, in addition to other areas.
"This team has the capabilities and resources to quickly get up and running to help the FAA address the demands of this challenging technology over the next decade," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
Congress appropriated $5 million for the five-year agreement with the COE, which will be matched one-for-one by the team members.
In addition to Mississippi State University, the other team members include: Drexel University; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Kansas State University; Kansas University; Montana State University; New Mexico State University; North Carolina State University; Oregon State University; University of Alabama, Huntsville; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of North Dakota; and Wichita State University.
The FAA will determine the relationship between the new COE and the six UAS sites the FAA announced last year once the new team develops detailed research plans. The FAA expects COE flight testing to occur at one or more of the existing test sites.
Congress mandated that the FAA establish the COE under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.
Like university think tank partnerships, the agency's Centers of Excellence bring together the best minds in the nation to conduct research to educate, train and work with the FAA toward solutions for aviation-related challenges.