FAA offers $6 million to drone companies

The FAA will partner with qualified commercial companies who can match the agency’s $6 million pledge to perform drone integration safety work at the FAA’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test sites.

“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.

On June 3, 2019, the FAA released its Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) laying out the requirements for the $6 million:

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

According to FAA officials, companies must have the technical capability to work on these 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;
  • Beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations;
  • 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, agency officials explain.

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