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UT Arlington Research Institute faculty to play key roles in FAA unmanned aircraft systems research

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Friday, January 10, 2014

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office:817-272-7075, Cell:214-546-1082, hbooth@uta.edu

News Topics: engineering, innovation, manufacturing, research, robotics, transportation

Four UT Arlington Research Institute faculty members will play key roles on the Texas team that will develop safety systems for unmanned aircraft in a project hailed as a potential economic boon for the state and the nation.

The team includes Frank Lewis, Moncrief-O’Donnell chair at the UT Arlington Research Institute and electrical engineering professor; Kamesh Subbarao and Atilla Dogan, both associate professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Brian Huff, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering. Their work will focus on decision and control systems, dynamic modeling, collision avoidance, positioning and other issues related to the high performance, human interactions and safety of unmanned aircraft, or drones.

A student works on an unmanned aerial systems.

A student works on an unmanned aerial system called the Quadrotor UAV.

They will conduct experiments, develop test beds, hardware, software and algorithms that enable safe and reliable deployment of unmanned aircraft systems for civilian, law enforcement, military and other uses.

UTARI is part of the team led by Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi named by the Federal Aviation Administration last week as one of the nation’s six major test sites for unmanned aircraft systems. The Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Initiative team also includes Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station; Camber Corp. of Huntsville, Ala.; the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio; and other research institutions and private-sector companies.  

“We’re proud to be part of such an important initiative in the development of advanced technologies for unmanned aerial systems,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, executive director of UTARI. “The current research of our affiliated faculty, and the work they’ll be doing as part of this initiative, further UT Arlington’s commitment to the innovation of UAS technology.”

Unmanned systems technology will be highlighted at the UT Arlington Research Institute on Jan. 27 during a daylong Unmanned Systems Consortium conference.  The event is co-sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Innovation. The nonprofit organization aims to be a catalyst for technology-based economic development. More information about the conference is available at http://www.uta.edu/utari/news-events/usc.php.

In all, the FAA approved six test sites across the country for the overall programs. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has projected the industry will create 100,000 jobs and generate $82 billion in economic activity in the decade after the aircraft are allowed in general airspace.

Congress has mandated that unmanned aircraft systems be integrated into the national airspace by 2015. Subbarao said the goal does not appear to be far afield.

“We just have to make sure that unmanned aviation systems integrate well with existing aircraft and buildings,” he said. “They’re already using some unmanned aerial systems on large ranges to count cattle.”

Unmanned systems are becoming popular with law enforcement agencies because it gives officers a different perspective than ground level.

Most of the UT Arlington research will focus on technology development that will enable safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System.

  • Lewis will focus on controls for unmanned systems. His work in UAVs includes Quadrotor UAV, dynamic modeling, flight control and autopilot control structures.
  • Subbarao’s work will focus on position determination of UAVs using sensors, tracking them for conflict prediction and collision avoidance. He also will help develop systems to use existing cellular infrastructure and the Internet to provide locations of UAVs, especially in non-GPS areas.
  • Dogan will work on wind field construction for trajectory prediction and conflict avoidance, obstacle detection and avoidance, impact of trailing wake vortex and turbulence on UAS operations and control, predicting hybrid airspace interactions where unmanned and manned aircraft coexist.
  • Dogan and Huff will work on algorithm developments based on probabilistic approaches for obstacle detection and avoidance as well as automatic emergency landing site selection.
  • Huff also will work on low-cost UAS tracking systems capable of feeding UAS identification, position and trajectory data into the National Airspace System air traffic monitoring system. The objective of the proposed research is to investigate the feasibility of creating a low-cost UAS tracking capability that can be used with the smallest UAV platforms.

About the UT Arlington Research Institute 

The UT Arlington Research Institute, based in Fort Worth’s Riverbend Business Park, is dedicated to bridging the gap between academic research and product development in the areas of advanced manufacturing, biomedical technologies and robotics. Visit www.uta.edu/utari/ for more information.

About The University of Texas at Arlington 

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,300 students and 2,300 faculty members in the epicenter of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in the University of Texas System. Research expenditures reached almost $78 million last year. Visit www.uta.edu for more information.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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