As Part of Center of Excellence, Rochester Institute of Technology Would Work With Other Leading Universities & Industry Partners to Develop Innovative Ways to Integrate UAS Technology into National Airspace System Consortium Consists of 12 Universities, 15 University Affiliates & Many Industry Partners Across U.S. – RIT Would Be Positioned to Provide Specialized Research in UAS Uses in Agriculture Schumer: ‘Center of Excellence’ Designation Would Enhance RIT’s Connection to Burgeoning UAS Indus

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to designate a consortium consisting of a number of universities, including the Rochester Institute of Technology, a Center of Excellence (COE) in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Schumer explained that, this year, the FAA plans to select one COE, that will consist of a group of world-class universities, to conduct UAS related research, education, and training while working to address the challenges and barriers to the safe integration of UAS technology into the National Airspace System (NAS). The consortium that 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 United States and Upstate New York. As part of this consortium, RIT would be positioned to provide specialized research in developing UASs for use in damage assessment and advanced image processing algorithms for agriculture applications. Schumer said UAS-INSIGHT would be a top-notch pick for the FAA, and noted that RIT would be particularly well-positioned to contribute to the COE due to its proximity to Griffiss and relationship with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), a regional alliance of private industry, academic institutions and military assets and operations, working together to conduct testing and research in order to begin to safely integrate unmanned vehicles and systems into the National Airspace System

“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,” said 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. RIT is a world-class institution, and I have no doubt the FAA will recognize all that RIT has to add to this potential ‘Center of Excellence’ as it considers the consortium’s application.”

Schumer explained that the COE will be dedicated to informing policies, rules, and best practices for safe integration of UAS. UAS-INSIGHT will bring together top researchers from 12 campuses, as well as industrial partners who are committed to providing financial support as well as employee expertise, opportunities for student internships, and other collaborative enterprises. At this time, the FAA is committing $1 million to cover the first two years of research and related activities, which will be conducted during fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The minimum funding level guaranteed to the COE will be $500,000 per year. According to the FAA, the selection of a COE is expected in early 2015. Schumer said that RIT would also be positioned to provide specialized research as a subcontractor. RIT’s areas of research expertise that will contribute to the work of the Center will include autonomous sense-and-avoid algorithms and developing advanced image processing algorithms for agriculture applications. 

The primary university partners of the consortium are: University of Maryland, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Rutgers, Penn State, MIT, UC San Diego, University of Illinois, University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech. Schumer said that the Center of Excellence program’s research and development remain essential to solving our nation’s critical aviation challenges and providing vital solutions to operational problems in the transportation field. Schumer said that UAS-INSIGHT plans to research new technologies and help the FAA develop the standards necessary to ensure, for example, that unmanned aircraft can detect and avoid other aircraft, rely on secure communications links, and be accommodated in air-traffic control systems. The world class research universities included in the UAS-INSIGHT proposal are uniquely well-positioned to address these significant safety issues and to advise the Department on how to ensure Americans are protected in the air and on the ground. Schumer explained that if UAS-INSIGHT is selected as the COE for UAS, it could lead to more test flights out of Griffiss, since the FAA expects any flight testing the COE wants to perform will occur at one or more of the six national test sites FAA selected last year, of which Griffiss is one.

Schumer has long been an advocate for bringing UAS jobs and technology to Upstate New York. In 2011, Schumer fought to increase the number of test sites in the National Airspace System for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from 4 to 6, which paved the way for NUAIR to apply. Through local meetings with NUAIR officials, a series of personal phone calls and meetings with FAA Administrator Huerta and Transportation Secretary Foxx, Schumer worked to make the case that the FAA should select NUAIR’s application, led by Griffiss International Airport, to be one of the six national test sites for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) designation, and the FAA and DOT eventually heeded Schumer’s call.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FAA Administrator and the Director of the FAA’s COE program is available upon request.  


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