FAA Invests $19M in Aviation Noise Research

 - April 10, 2023, 8:21 AM
ASCENT grant awardees will study ways to reduce noise pollution and mitigate the associated environmental impacts. (Image: FAA)

The FAA has awarded $19 million in research grants to 14 universities across the nation in a massive effort to reduce noise pollution associated with aviation. In the April 6 announcement, the FAA revealed the recipients of those grants and the projects they will be working on, which include developing noise abatement procedures, assessing the impact of noise on the environment and communities, and acoustic modeling of new aircraft emerging from the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector. 

“Research is the gateway to breakthroughs. With the best minds, we can reduce noise and fly with net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen.

The participating university teams are all members of the Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT), a federally funded research organization co-led by Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This includes Georgia Tech, Penn State, Stanford, Purdue, Boston University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois, Missouri S&T, University of Dayton, University of Hawaii, University of North Carolina, and the University of Tennessee.

In an effort to reduce noise in new aircraft designs, Georgia Tech will explore the noise-reduction benefits of an over-wing jet engine design concept. Georgia Tech will also be working with several university partners to develop improved supersonic aircraft noise prediction methods, while Penn State will be simulating sonic booms to develop noise certification standards for low-boom supersonic aircraft. 

To better understand the noise that will be produced by AAM aircraft and drones, MIT will be developing noise models for a variety of different aircraft designs. Penn State will create acoustic models specifically for urban air mobility vehicles with low-noise operations, such as eVTOL air taxis. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech will be studying how much noise exposure might result from the introduction of large numbers of uncrewed aircraft systems or drones. 

Grant awardees will also extensively study the effects of noise on communities and public health. For example, Boston University will determine whether there is any correlation between aircraft noise and sleep, cardiovascular health, and mental health. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers will investigate the effects of aviation noise on sleep disturbances. MIT will also investigate whether any homes have decreased in value due to aircraft noise exposure.

While these grants are primarily focused on noise-related issues, the FAA has also funded a variety of other sustainability research projects through the ASCENT program. Other ASCENT projects deal with sustainable aviation fuels, jet fuel supply chains, engine technologies, and other environmental impact studies. Over the past year, the FAA has invested more than $35 million in various ASCENT research projects. Since ASCENT began in 2014, the FAA has invested more than $350 million in the program.