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FAA Kicks Off UAS Center of Excellence Competition

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has officially launched its search for a Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems by holding a public meeting in Virginia and posting the draft solicitation on its website.

The Center of Excellence should be selected in January or February, according to the FAA, and should be operational by September 2015. The center and its university and industry partners will conduct a variety of research that will augment the work being done by the six UAS test sites and by the FAA’s technical center in New Jersey.

The COE, which is under the FAA UAS office’s research and development wing, will be responsible for seven research areas, including air traffic control interoperability, airport ground operations, control and communication, detect and avoid, human factors, spectrum management, and UAS pilot training and certification, including other UAS crew members.

Jim Williams, head of the FAA’s UAS office, said the test sites will focus on flight demonstrations and operational validation, where the COE will focus on non-flight research and development.

“The technical center currently does a large part of our research, but they don’t have expertise in all the areas, so that’s where the COE can provide another venue to do key research,” Williams said at the public meeting, which drew a crowd of more than 350 people, including representatives from 61 universities. “We see them working hand in hand.”

Unlike with the test sites, the FAA will guarantee funding for the COE, but it must raise matching funds from nonfederal sources to operate.

The draft solicitation for the COE is available at https://faa-uas-coe.net.

Original Story written by Brett Davis with AUVSI and published at http://www.auvsi.org/2752014/2852014FAACOE

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