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Unmanned aircraft research takes flight

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The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects that the unmanned aircraft industry will create 100,000 jobs and generate $82 billion in economic activity in the decade after the aircraft are allowed in general airspace.

UT Arlington Research Institute faculty members Frank Lewis, the Moncrief-O’Donnell chair at UTARI and an electrical engineering professor; Kamesh Subbarao and Atilla Dogan, associate professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and Brian Huff, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, will play key roles on a Texas team that will develop safety systems for the sophisticated flying machines.

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

They 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.

UTARI is part of a team led by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, which the Federal Aviation Administration named as one of the nation’s six major test sites for unmanned aircraft systems. Other Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Initiative members include the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, Camber Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., and the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.  

Congress has mandated that unmanned aircraft be integrated into the national airspace by 2015. Dr. Subbarao says the goal appears to be reachable.

“We just have to make sure that unmanned aviation systems integrate well with existing aircraft and buildings,” he says.

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