The FAA Offers New Partnership Opportunities for Commercial Drone Entities

Dan Elwell at the 2019 FAA UAS Symposium

On June 3rd the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new policy in response to a Congressional requirement. The announcement clearly states the intention of the FAA to partner with qualified commercial entities who will match a $6M pledge to perform Unmanned Air Systems (UAS or UAV) integration-related work at the UAS Test Sites.

The update was made via a Broad Agency Announcement. These potential partnerships will help bridge the gap between industry and various Test Sites to undertake some of the most difficult and contentious technical and operational challenges and also to demonstrate or validate technologies essential to the safe integration of UAS in the National Air Space (NAS).

“The FAA intends to bridge the gap between industry and the test sites to tackle some of our most difficult technical and operational challenges,” said Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell at the FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore.

Applicants must be able to match the federal funds they request through this program and also demonstrate an existing contractual relationship with or show that FAA funding would enable it to enter into a contract with a test site.

Companies that intend to participate in the program must have the technical capability to work on these essential integration technologies:

  • Develop and enforce geographic and altitude limitations (Geo-fencing);
  • Provide for alerts by the manufacturer of an unmanned aircraft system regarding any hazards or limitations on flight, including prohibition on flight as necessary;
  • Sense and avoid capabilities (DAA);
  • Beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations (BVLOS);
  • Night time operations;
  • Operations over people;
  • Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems;
  • Unmanned aircraft systems traffic management (UTM);
  • Other critical research priorities; and
  • Improve privacy protections through the use of advances in unmanned aircraft systems technology.

The application process has two steps. Step 1 is a white paper package which is due by June 28, 2019. If that package is accepted, a full proposal must be submitted by July 31, 2019. The FAA expects to award contracts by September 30, 2019. The funding for the partnership was mandated and provided by Congress in the FAA’s Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019, so the money is already there.

In order to clarify the program and make the process as transparent as possible, the FAA has launched a frequently asked questions page and we encourage our readers to visit the page and apply for these coveted matching funds’ program.

This collaboration between the FAA, private-commercial entities and the approved test sites is a great way to ensure, and accelerate, the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.

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About the Author

Juan received a degree in Geodesy and a master in digital photogrammetry from Universidad Central de Venezuela and a MBA in international Finance from Florida International University. He has over 750 hours of experience in photogrammetry navigation and camera operation in aircraft as varied as WWII B-25, Cessna 310, Lear Jet 25C and Piper Aztec. Juan holds a Commercial, Multi-engine Pilot certificate. Juan has been selling mapping UAV’s in Latin America for four years and is a frequent guest speaker in events where the safety of flying UAV’s and the fact that unmanned and manned aircraft inevitably will share the same airspace, is a relevant topic. He is the CEO of Juan B Plaza Consulting, a services’ firm specializing in UAV and general aviation issues.

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