UND Vies for UAS Funding from FAA

Aug. 21--With all six of its unmanned aircraft systems research test sites operational, the Federal Aviation Administration is turning its attention to creating a UAS Center of Excellence.

UND has confirmed it will be among those vying to be part of the center, which will study challenges surrounding the integration of unmanned systems into commercial airspace.

UND, at least 14 other universities and numerous industry partners will be submitting an application together as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS Through Research Excellence, according Mike Corcoran, UAS course manager for UND.

"It's a coalition of many different partners that are working together to achieve outstanding results in unmanned aircraft research," Corcoran said.

If selected, those involved in the alliance would gain access to a minimum of $500,000 in research money each year for at least the next 10 years, according to the FAA. The universities submitting projects will be required to match any grants sought with money from nonfederal sources.

The creation of the UAS Center of Excellence doesn't mean a new building on the campuses but the utilization of existing infrastructure and programs at the schools, Corcoran said. Three of the universities are or have access to the FAA's unmanned aircraft test sites, including UND.

The center would work with the test sites though the FAA said in a news release it is not sure of how the two groups would interact at this point.

The Center of Excellence applications are due to the FAA by Sept. 15. The ASSURE group will meet next week to finalize documents for its submission, Corcoran said.

Each school is tasked with working on part of the application with UND preparing the detect-and-avoid technology portion.

Detect-and-avoid technology refers to systems that would allow UAS to sense other aircraft while in flight and change course if necessary to avoid collisions without operator input.

Corcoran said it's likely the FAA wouldn't announce its selection until later this year or early 2015.

The center's creation was mandated by Congress, which also is requiring the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into commercial airspace by 2015.

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