Ohio State joins national team studying unmanned aircraft systems

Posted: May 15, 2015

The Ohio State University and the University of California, Davis have joined a team designated by the Federal Aviation Administration to launch a new era of commercial unmanned aircraft research, development, and integration into the nation’s airspace.

Last week, the FAA selected the Alliance for System Safety of Unmanned Aircraft Systems through Research Excellence (ASSURE) team to run a new National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (COE UAS).

ASSURE comprises the world’s top UAS universities with 15 core schools and five associate members from three countries and more than 100 government and industry partners. Mississippi State University is leading this alliance of academic and industry partners.

“It is a thrill for us to be invited to bring our strengths to the UAS Center of Excellence,” said James Gregory, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State and the university’s lead representative for the center’s activities.

“We look forward to working with our partner institutions across the nation to tackle some of the most challenging issues in aviation today – most notably, how to safely and efficiently integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. Ohio State’s contributions include strengths in human/machine integration, control and communication and radio spectrum management, as well as other areas. We are proud to be able to draw on our resources and rich faculty expertise in the Aerospace Research Center and at the Ohio State Airport to work on UAS research.”

Research will take place at member universities throughout the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and other global sites. The center will be headquartered at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., to take advantage of the NASA, NOAA and Department of Defense resources located there.

“This has been a six-year effort for Mississippi State and three years for our partner universities. We picked our team because they know unmanned systems and they know the FAA. That will make it easier to turn UAS research into FAA rules quickly,” said USAF Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James Poss, the executive director of the ASSURE FAA UAS COE team at Mississippi State.

“We are pleased to welcome Ohio State and UC Davis,” he said.

Congress has charged the FAA with developing rules regulating commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and the new center will play a key role in that process. The COE will provide the agency and industry with research, education and training to maximize the potential of commercial unmanned systems with minimal changes to the current system regulating manned aircraft.

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.

The FAA expects the COE will be able to begin research by September 2015 and be fully operational by January 2016.

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, the other team members with Ohio State and UC Davis include Drexel University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Kansas State 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 Kansas, University of North Dakota, Wichita State University, Auburn University (associate member), Concordia University, Canada (associate member), Indiana State University (associate member), Louisiana Tech University, Tuskegee University (associate member), and University of Southampton, UK (associate member).