college funding

Five American universities just got $2.8 million to research drones

Five American universities are already on the forefront of drone research — and they’re about to get an even bigger lift.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced this week that it will award a combined $2.8 million in drone research, education and training grants to five universities largely concentrated in the American midwest. The money is intended to allow academics to research critical areas that will advance drone operations in the U.S. Those three areas are:

  • Advanced material: identifying the types of composites and other advanced materials used in drones to help develop standards and regulations to use these advanced materials in aircraft. 
  • Right-of-way rules: providing safety-based recommendations for the FAA and drone industry standards organizations to consider in establishing drone detect-and-avoid requirements.
  • Flight data recorder requirements: exploring flight-recorder requirements for drones, including remotely piloted advance air mobility aircraft. For this research, universities will also share the findings with the European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment.

And the five American universities receiving the funding? They are:

  • Mississippi State University.
  • Wichita State University.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
  • University of Kansas.
  • University of North Dakota. 

This is not the first time that American universities have received funding from the FAA. The funding is a part of a program called the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) grant program. And in fact, this is the third funding round of its type for 2021 alone. This third round brings the total number of grants bestowed to an incredible 57 grants, which together represent a combined $19.1 million in federal funding for the 2021 fiscal year.

In the first funding round of fiscal year 2021, $5.8 million was awarded to researchers across eight different drone-related areas. Interestingly, all five American universities receiving funding in this third round also received money earlier this year. And those same schools also received an enormous percent of the overall ASSURE funding, with Mississippi State University taking in more than $4 million in total in 2020, followed by the University of North Dakota which took in $3.5 million last year.

And sure, that may seem like a lot of government funding for drones. But it’s a fairly common practice, that might end up yielding better results. In many areas — but especially drones — the FAA has leaned on either private companies, non-profits, education institutions or other organizations to help it advance forward.

Rather than the FAA employee people to research topics, academic institutions or private companies may be better suited for the role. In fact, the ASSURE Center of Excellence is just one of six groups that the FAA has established to help advance technology while also helping educate the incoming generation of aviation professionals.

And separately, many of these same schools are also participants in the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI)

What that means for you

If you’re wondering what college to attend, those figures could make those universities a lot more appealing as professors lean on students to help them take on research tasks. And your college research might ultimately end up to a strong career in drones. After all, the drone industry is desperately trying to hire qualified pilots.

Leave a Reply