Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to choose the consortium in which the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) belongs as the agency's Center of Excellence (COE) for unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
The FAA is planning to select one COE that will consist of a group of universities to conduct UAS-related research, education and training, as well as work to address challenges and barriers to the safe integration of UAS into national airspace. The selection of a COE is expected in early 2015.
Sen. Schumer says the consortium RIT is a part of – called the Unmanned Aerial Systems INtegration: Safe Innovative Graduated Harmonious Transition (UAS-INSIGHT) – includes 12 partner universities, 15 university affiliates and many industry partners throughout the U.S. and upstate New York.
The senator believes RIT would be positioned to provide specialized research in developing UAS for use in damage assessment and advanced image processing algorithms for agriculture applications. He says the university would also be able to provide specialized research as a subcontractor.
Schumer notes RIT’s proximity to the New York UAS test site at Griffiss in nearby Rome, as well as the university’s relationship with the nonprofit Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), which is in charge of managing the site. He explains that if UAS-INSIGHT is selected as the COE for UAS, it could lead to more test flights out of Griffiss.
At this time, according to Schumer, the FAA is committing $1 million to cover the first two years of research and related activities for the COE – which will be conducted during fiscal years 2015 and 2016 – and the minimum funding level guaranteed will be $500,000 per year.
The primary university partners of the consortium are the following: the University of Maryland, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Rutgers, Penn State, MIT, UC San Diego, the University of Illinois, the University of Texas at Austin and Virginia Tech.
“Upstate New York, especially Syracuse and Utica, is already a leader in unmanned aircraft research and enterprise, but being designated part of a Center of Excellence would help take the region’s efforts to the next level,” says Schumer. “The Rochester Institute of Technology, through its connection to NUAIR, is part of the fabric of the unmanned aircraft industry in the region, but this FAA designation would enable it to play an even greater role by contributing to research and development in a variety of relevant fields.”