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FAA grant will help drone research at NMSU continue to soar

FAA grant will help drone research at NMSU continue to soar

Date: 09/21/2022

Author: Jacob Maranda - New Mexico Inno Reporter

From: Business Journals


Drone research at New Mexico State University will continue to soar after the Federal Aviation Administration last week awarded a $400,000 grant to the university's Physical Science Laboratory. The money will support the development of unmanned aircraft systems that can respond to emergencies or prepare for disasters.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) include the actual flying aircraft — the "drone" — as well as the control station and the communication link between the drone and the station. The grant will give NMSU's Physical Science Lab (PSL) more capacity to conduct drills and "full scale exercises" to evaluate UAS operations and performance, said Henry M. Cathey, director of PSL's Aerospace Division and NMSU's UAS Flight Test Site.

NMSU hosts one of seven FAA-approved UAS Test Sites in the U.S. Exercises and drills at NMSU's test site will focus on safe and effective use of UAS in responding to "different natural and human-made disasters and emergencies," according to an FAA press release.

PSL research will also help federal and state agencies, like the Department of Interior and Department of Homeland Security, employ new requirements and regulations in their use of UAS.

"It is not a matter of if drones will be used to support response, they currently are," Cathey said. "It is a question of how to best use these new and supportive tools to improve response and to keep people safe."

Crews used a drone to rescue a stranded hiker near Scottsdale in September, and a Florida company has developed a larger UAS that can measure wind and rotation speeds of hurricanes before they make landfall.

Cathey noted that drones could also be used to respond to and prepare for flash floods, like those seen around the Southwest late this summer.

Thermal imaging, mapping technology and photography are a few of the ways drones may be used to respond to emergencies and prepare for disasters in the future, Cathey said.

The funding comes as a part of the FAA's Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) program. NMSU is one of 17 core universities from around the world in the program.

NMSU's $400,000 award is part of the third round of FAA ASSURE grants. The agency awarded $2.7 million in total to five universities across the U.S. in the third round and has provided $21 million through 20 grants in total.