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May 27– The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today released a draft solicitation for a new FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (COE) that is expected to become an integral part of the agency’s UAS research program on this emerging technology.  The solicitation will be open for comment through June 29.  The FAA expects the final solicitation to be published in August.

Representatives from more than 100 colleges and universities, as well as 200 more people from industry and government, are expected to attend a public meeting on the COE solicitation May 28-29 in the Washington, DC area.

The FAA expects the COE to study several technical issues critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace, including detect-and-avoid technology, control and communications, compatibility with air traffic control operations and training and certification of UAS pilots and other crewmembers.

University teams will include industry and other affiliates expected to support and serve on the COE team. The FAA will initially enter into a 5-year cooperative agreement with each COE core member university. The deadline for university teams to submit proposals is mid-September.  The universities will be required to match federal grants, dollar for dollar, from nonfederal sources.

Exactly how the new COE will interact with six UAS test sites that the FAA selected last December will be determined once the COE team is in place and develops its detailed research plans. The agency expects any flight testing the COE wants to perform will occur at one or more of the test sites.

Congress mandated that the FAA establish the COE under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.

Like university think tank partnerships, the agency’s Centers of Excellence bring the best minds in the nation together to conduct research, to educate and to train, and work with the FAA toward solutions for aviation-related challenges.

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