International Journal of Aviation Sciences (IJAS)


It is estimated that there are over one million unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that, if operated incorrectly, can pose a significant threat to individuals, property, and other aircraft. Many of these systems are now finding their ways into universities, where they are operated by nonaviation professionals with an overall objective of exploring new research opportunities. While these initiatives hold significant promise for technical advancements, some employ relatively primitive operational and safety protocols. This article reviews FAA rules and reports on a university effort that has developed a formal partnership between an established aviation center utilizing licensed pilots and an engineering center that is focused on using UAS for infrastructure research. The fundamental concept of this partnership is a division between UAS operational and research activities. The article describes a structure that clearly segregates the research activities from flight operations. The framework described in this paper can serve as a model for universities seeking to initiate UAS research in a manner that conforms to FAA rules and accepted aviation best practices.

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