NMSU wins designation as core university of new FAA national center for UAS

WRITER: Tiffany Acosta

New Mexico State University is a core member-university on a team that will operate a new Federal Aviation Administration National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

On May 8, the FAA announced that the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) would operate the new center. NMSU, as a core university of ASSURE, is helping lead the partnership of academic and industry members that will begin a new era of commercial unmanned aircraft research, development and integration into the nation’s airspace.

“NMSU’s combination of over a decade of UAS flight test experience, outstanding facilities and sterling safety record were a critical differentiator in the selection of the ASSURE team as the FAA UAS Center of Excellence,” said Dallas Brooks, NMSU UAS research and development strategic manager. “No other facility in the nation can match NMSU’s proven capabilities and our record of firsts in UAS flight and research, development, test and evaluation activities. We look forward to helping lead the ASSURE coalition to even greater accomplishments as a core member of the FAA UAS Center of Excellence team.”

NMSU’s UAS FTC is the first; most accomplished and most experienced FAA-approved UAS test facility in the nation. It also provides direct access to more than 15,000 square miles of airspace, and is the only civil UAS test facility that provides direct, available access to restricted airspace – a must for testing developmental aircraft or multi-aircraft scenarios.

Congress has tasked the FAA with creating rules policing commercial unmanned aircraft systems, and the new center will play a vital part in that process. The center of excellence will supply research to the FAA and UAS industry to increase the potential of commercial unmanned systems with minimal changes to the current system regulating manned aircraft.

The center of excellence research areas 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.

September 2015 is the target date for the center to begin research and by January 2016 the center is expected to be fully operational and engaged in a robust research agenda.

ASSURE will form teams between its member universities, government agencies and industry partners to address both government and commercial UAS challenges.

ASSURE is comprised of the top UAS universities from three countries and more than 100 government and industry partners. ASSURE’s additional member universities include Drexel University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Kansas State University, Montana State University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, University of Alabama-Huntsville, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of Kansas, University of North Dakota, Wichita State University, Auburn University (associate member), Concordia (associate member), Indiana State University (associate member), Louisiana Tech University, Tuskegee University (associate member) and University of Southampton (associate member). For more information on ASSURE visit www.assureuas.org.

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