White House Slates $35 million for Drone Research

The Obama administration has announced a series of government and industry initiatives to accelerate deployment of unmanned aircraft systems.

by / August 2, 2016
Flickr/Peter Linehan

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith announced today a list of policy measures, projects and funding commitments for the study and deployment of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Released at the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy workshop, items included a five-year, $35 million study by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for drone research; $5 million from the state of New York for state research in drone development; and numerous actions by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior to use unmanned aircraft for a variety agency operations.

“[We want] to make sure that we’re doing the work that we need to do in this sector to make sure that we’re engaging all Americans into this incredible economic and social opportunity,” Smith said during the event.

NSF’s $35 million for research and development is meant to propel drone use and deployment for a number of services. Monitoring tasks will be one of these as officials and industries use drones to inspect facilities, survey crops, analyze weather patterns and even deter birds from interfering with airport operations. At the same time, NSF said it will also implement and assess safety, security and privacy issues connected with drones.

In New York, the state’s chief economic development agency, Empire State Development, said its $5 million commitment is an initial investment to laying the groundwork necessary for UAS across the state. The funding will go to planning and design of “next generation Unmanned Aerial Traffic Management infrastructure,” national drone testing and rating facilities, and a new New York innovation district for drone usage between the New York cities of Syracuse and Rome. Funding comes from the $500 Central New York Rising plan, which is part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

In a release, the White House said that in the next decade, the commercial drone industry is estimated to produce to more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and 100,000 new jobs by 2025. The Obama administration said that the Aug. 2  announcements are part of a continuing effort to seed that growth with both dollars and executive office support. The Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instituted their Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rule this summer to establish guidelines for non-recreational unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds. Further, the FAA has created a UAS Safety Team to define drone safety standards; it will propose regulations this winter for drone use around crowds and people.

More details on the various commitments can be found here.  

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