ASSURE updates UAS industry on research efforts, future plans

By Luke Geiver | December 10, 2015

Several members of the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) provided updates this week on their collective efforts to solve the biggest issues facing the emerging unmanned aircraft systems industry at a long-running UAS event held in New Mexico.

Sabrina Saunders-Hodge, division manager for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen Research & Development Integration office, told attendees at the Technical Analysis and Applications Center Conference (TAAC) that the ASSURE team is considered a “national asset.” According to Saunders-Hodge, the FAA has already pledged roughly $5 million in funding to the ASSURE group over the next five years, with the option for additional funding and additional time commitments.

Currently, ASSURE consists of 22 schools and 107 companies. “It is a massive organization,” said Maj Gen (Ret.) Jim Poss, executive director for ASSURE. “We are purposely built for a big job.”

University-related research members from seven schools provided a glimpse into the current work of ASSURE.

Tom Aldag from Wichita State University said the school is working to verify the UAS standards currently in the queue by ASTM. The team is utilizing a single platform to see if the standards for platforms are suitable to ensure safe flight in the future. The team is also working to form a ground severity collision task force and perform an airborne collision severity evaluation.

Kurt Barnhardt of Kansas State University, said KSU is working to create a maintainence and training protocol for UAS. The school is also planning to train visual observers.

At Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Richard Stansbury said the school is working with ASSURE on air traffic integration. The school is also working to use ground-based robots to test methods of moving UAVs along the runway to and from the launch point. The robots are used to represent a future UAV, he said.

At North Carolina State University, Kyle Synder is exploring the issue of control and communication links along with spectrums used to transmit radio signals. The team is researching which frequencies will be adequate and reliable. Synder said the team also hopes to look at cyber threats and link security issues.

Kurt Izzetoglu from Drexel University is exploring human factors that may impact the safe operation of UAS in the national airspace. Specifically, he said, the team is analyzing UAV control station design standards.

Members from the University of North Dakota and New Mexico State University each explained their work on detect and avoid capabilities. The team is looking at, among many topics, the requirements for software algorithms that could be used in systems dedicated to SAA.

In addition to research-related updates, Poss explained ASSURE’s work to bring on industry partners that will invest in UAS work. Such an investment, he said, could give them an upperhand on the knowledge curve of what is coming for UAS in the future.

ASSURE is also considering business model consulting. The team will even work with industry partners on issues it hasn’t yet addressed through current work. In the future, the team may also form regional activity hubs focused on specific end-use applications. As an example, Poss said Mississippi State University could someday be a hub for precision ag UAS applications. The region could allow UAS operators to physically test systems in fields and farming operations throughout the region.