University of Memphis Joins National Drone Testing Pilot Program

May 29, 2018 - The University of Memphis will partner with the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) to support a national pilot project to fully integrate drones into air traffic and establish guidelines for their use. The airport authority was one of 10 participants selected from 150 applicants for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

Along with the UofM, the MSCAA is working with FedEx Corp., the City of Memphis, Agricenter International, the Tennessee Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, AirXOS and Avitas, among others, to accelerate America's use of unmanned aircraft systems.

"This agreement will allow us to research the use of drones in scenarios such as operations over people (OOP), beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) and at night," said Dr. Eddie Jacobs, director of the UofM Drones, Robotics and Navigation Enabled Systems (DRONES) research cluster. "This cluster recently launched an effort to develop the University District as a research and testing area for autonomous systems over the next year. Drone operations can be used to support those efforts."

The partnership will use drones weighing 55 pounds or less to conduct a variety advanced operations over five airspaces, including urban and agricultural areas. They include:

• At the airport for perimeter security and to detect foreign objects and debris on runways and

• At FedEx to inspect aircraft, track assets and for facility security and emergency response.
Drones also will be used to deliver small aircraft parts in the north ramp area;

• At Agricenter International and over the Mississippi and Wolf Rivers for precision
agriculture,environmental protection, infrastructure protection and package delivery for
medical needs; and

• Over airspace that includes Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium for infrastructure inspection,
public safety and medical deliveries.

"Another benefit is the collection and processing of data from drone flights conducted as part of this program," Jacobs said. "The data needs to be compiled and delivered to the FAA on a regular basis. We have a unique opportunity to assist in this process and provide value added in the form of analysis. This program could present many opportunities in Big Data and data analytics. It also may present opportunities for research into the adoption and acceptance of drone technologies by communities."

For more information about the research projects and other activities of the DRONES research cluster, visit https://www.memphis.edu/fedex/research/drones/index.php.


Chuck Gallina | 901.678.1756 l cgallina@memphis.edu