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NOAA to Expand Use of Unmanned Platforms for Environment Data Collection

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has unveiled an effort to increase agencywide adoption of unmanned airborne and maritime platforms designed to collect environmental data.

NOAA said Tuesday it will establish the Unmanned Systems Operations Program within the agency’s marine and aviation operations office to expand the use of sensor-equipped autonomous or remotely piloted vehicles in different mission areas.

The Lakeland, Fla.-based NOAA Aircraft Operations Center will support unmanned aircraft activities through the new initiative, while a partnerhip between the Mississippi State Port Authority and the University of Southern Mississippi will build a facility to support the program’s unmanned martime operations.

NOAA noted it uses UxS technology to map the seafloor and habitats, assess marine mammal and fish populations, conduct observations at sea and respond to emergencies.

Congress authorized $12.7M for the agency’s UxS-based missions for fiscal 2020.

The Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology Act of 2018 mandates NOAA to collaborate with other federal agencies, companies, academic entities and the U.S. Navy in unmanned marine technology  projects.