The Federal Aviation Administration has named a consortium that includes the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a new Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
UAF’s Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, or ACUASI, the largest and most operationally focused university UAS program in North America and part of UAF’s Geophysical Institute, is a core partner in the Alliance for System Safety of UAS Through Research Excellence, or ASSURE. As a core member of the ASSURE team, UAF will conduct research, test and evaluate UAS systems and sub-systems with the focus on low-altitude operation, operations beyond line of sight, and cold weather and extreme climate research and testing.
“I am particularly pleased with this award as it recognizes the experience and expertise UAF has gained in our fourteen years of UAS operations,” said Marty Rogers, ACUASI director and Vice Director of ASSURE. “This award allows us to not only continue our current research but to expand and grow the program. We take a certain amount of pride in our reputation of successfully “doing the hard to do” in the unmanned aircraft world, and this award will allow us to continue that tradition of success.”
Rogers also serves as the vice director of ASSURE, which is lead by Mississippi State University, and in this role he will support the overall management of the program.
The ASSURE team will receive $5 million in federal funding, of which UAF will receive a portion based on the research projects it leads. This funding will be leveraged through partnerships with industry, the government, and other academic institutions.
ACUASI also manages the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex for the FAA, one of six official FAA test sites in the U.S., and works closely with the FAA on UAS regulatory questions. In November 2014 ACUASI opened an Iceland office in support of continued testing and evaluation of UAS, focusing on beyond-line-of-sight operations.
ACUASI personnel fly UAS missions more than 150 days per year, testing the capabilities of these diverse systems for everything from wildlife population surveys to search and rescue to locating wildfire hotspots.
Rogers noted that “Alaska relies on aviation and is a perfect test bed for unmanned aircraft operations. We hope this award leads to the expanded use of unmanned aircraft systems in rapid emergency response as well as UAS commercialization.”