Integrating Unmanned Aircraft into Airspace Requires Investment, Oversight

October 28, 2015

Mississippi State Led ASSURE Testifies to Senate about UAS Research. Miss. State University Leads Effort to Forge Government, Academia & Industry on UAS Innovation & Research.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today said the Congress is right to invest in the development of unmanned aircraft systems technologies and to oversee the development of policies for their safe implementation and use.

Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Wednesday raised questions with a panel of experts on the role the federal government should play in promoting research on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones.  Marty Rogers, the deputy director of the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE)—a consortium led by Mississippi State University—was among those testifying at today's Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee hearing.

"Unmanned aircraft systems represent a growing transportation sector that brings with it opportunities, but also daunting safety challenges.  We're interested in seeing this sector grow, but with assurances that our airspace will be safe," Cochran said.

"Our role is to determine the responsible level of federal support to encourage research that can be translated into polices that will support unmanned aircraft systems development," he said.  "I think we understand that programs like the Center of Excellence involving Mississippi State are needed to help the government, academia and industry advance unmanned aircraft systems responsibly."

ASSURE was designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in May as a Center of Excellence (COE) to coordinate the research, development and successful integration of UAS between public, academic, and private organizations.  (http://1.usa.gov/1L4FnZO)

Rogers stressed rapid progress by ASSURE in coordinating research and cooperation with the FAA, universities and industry since its designation.  He highlighted the consortium's unique role, saying that "the COE allows for a confluence of voices from people who never had a chance to talk before.  We have 22 universities and over 100 industry partners, and people who were siloed before now have a convergence of interests at the Center of Excellence.  The COE has become a binder for the entire UAS community of government, academia, and industry, which is now forming up to collaborate."

FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta agreed, saying that "this work is extremely important to illuminate the public policy debate and help us promulgate smart regulations in the years ahead."

ASSURE was selected by the FAA to research UAS integration into the nation's airspace, in addition to related deployment and safety policies.  The directive to the FAA to establish the national center has been included in congressional appropriations bills since FY2012, with Congress appropriating $5.0 million in FY2015 to support a five-year agreement with the UAS COE.  Federal funding will be matched by ASSURE team members.

In addition to research on opportunities for UAS use, the COE will coordinate research and development activities with federal agencies.  Its work will also lead to recommendations on aircraft certification, flight standards and air traffic requirements and facilitate UAS technology transfer to other civilian and defense agencies.

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LINK
•    ASSURE Program:  www.assureuas.org