Autonomous aerial drones have many potential applications in supply chain operations, from parcel delivery to inventory counting, yard management, and facility security.
Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has identified another possible use for the unmanned aerial vehicles and is backing up the idea with funding. Last month, the agency announced it was awarding seven universities a combined $3.3 million in research, education, and training grants to study “innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations.”
The money will go to schools that are members of FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)—also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE)—to support research on how drones can aid in disaster preparedness and response. The beneficiaries include: Mississippi State University ($1,290,410), University of Alabama–Huntsville ($1,101,000), New Mexico State University ($234,000), University of Alaska, Fairbanks ($245,000), Mississippi State University ($130,000), North Carolina State University ($124,979), and Oregon State University ($165,000).
The ASSURE grants are aimed at continuing the safe and successful integration of drones into the nation’s airspace, officials said. That airspace is swiftly becoming more crowded, with an estimated 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones now in the nation’s active UAS fleet and a forecast of 2.31 million by 2024. “Collaboration is hugely important as we work to safely integrate UAS into the aerospace system,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a release. “These important grants fund the research [that] allows us to learn and implement the safety measures associated with UAS operations in the airspace.”