UAS at sunset

June 7, 2019

With unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) becoming an ever-increasing part of the National Airspace System, the FAA launched two initiatives at a recent industry conference emphasizing safety and innovation in the continuing evolution of this fast-developing market segment.

FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell announced during the agency’s annual UAS Symposium a new partnership opportunity with commercial stakeholders, in which the FAA will provide matching funds to approved companies willing to invest in adapting and refining systems including geo-fencing and detect and avoid capabilities, and beyond visual line-of-sight operations.

“We’re going to partner with qualified commercial entities that will match our $6 million budget to perform UAS-integration related work at the test sites,” Elwell said. “The FAA intends to bridge the gap between industry and the test sites to tackle some of our most difficult technical and operational challenges.”

The program uses funds mandated in the FAA’s Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019. The agency is moving quickly with this project, with a June 28 deadline for interested companies to submit white papers. Full proposals are due from accepted companies by July 31, with the agency expected to award contracts by Sept. 30.

Elwell also announced National Drone Safety Awareness Week; a planned series of nationwide events focused on the safe operation of UAS. “I think it’s a creative way to connect the drone community with the general public,” he said, adding the agency hopes it will become an annual event.

“These programs underscore the sense of urgency from industry stakeholders and regulators alike to see UAS deployed in a variety of applications, as well as the many accomplishments we’ve already seen in a relatively short timeframe,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA director for air traffic services and infrastructure. “Above all, they also emphasize that safety must remain paramount as the industry continues to innovate in this field.”

The symposium, which took place June 3-5 in Baltimore, MD, also included panels and presentations regarding electronic vertical takeoff and landing urban air mobility vehicles, including standards to drive the development of performance-based regulations of these emerging technologies.