Hoeven, Cramer Pledge Ongoing Support for FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Senators, Congressmen, FAA Head Laud New Unmanned Aircraft System Research Consortium, Speak to Its Next Steps and Goals

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer, along with members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, today pledged to continue their support for a newly-designated FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems that will research and develop technologies and policies for the use of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, in the United States.

At a news conference Thursday, lawmakers praised the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selection of Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), a consortium of 20 universities led by the University of North Dakota (UND) and Mississippi State University, to lead the UAS COE.  ASSURE is tasked with identifying issues critical to the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace and engaging in research and policy development on the growing use of unmanned aerial systems.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, MSU President Mark Keenum, UND Associate Dean of Academics-Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences Paul Lindseth and other consortium members joined U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and U.S. Representatives Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) at the event to discuss the next steps and goals for the COE UAS.

“We are extremely pleased that UND is a key member of the UAS team selected for the Center of Excellence,” Hoeven said. “UND brings not only its resources as a premier school of aviation, but also a strong connection with the northern tier UAS test site and the Grand Sky Technology Park.”

“This alliance is its own evidence of excellence.  In addition to the scientific and intellectual assets of these institutions, North Dakota brings the highest ethical standards born out of the culture of the prairies to be applied to the execution of technology,” Congressman Cramer said.

The directive to the FAA to establish the national center has been included in congressional appropriations bills since FY2012, with Congress appropriating $5 million to support a five-year agreement with the COE UAS.  Federal funding will be matched by ASSURE team members.

The FAA expects the COE to begin research in 2015 and be fully operational in 2016 in its exploration of evolving new technological developments regarding unmanned aircraft and their uses, including detect-and-avoid technology, low-altitude operations safety, privacy safeguards and other areas.  Research will also involve the deployment of UAS for emergency response, biofuel and clean fuel technologies, law enforcement activities, and agricultural and environmental monitoring.

Moreover, the COE UAS will coordinate research and development activities with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture and other agencies.  Its work will also lead to recommendations on aircraft certification, flight standards and air traffic requirements, and facilitate UAS technology transfer to other civilian and defense agencies.

In addition to Cochran, Hoeven, Murkowski and Wicker, other Senators who have been instrumental in supporting the formation of the COE UAS include Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.).