UTA researcher seeks to minimize risks for unmanned aerial systems over populated areas

Monday, Aug 07, 2017 • Media Contact : Herb Booth

Unmanned aerial systems are being used more often in urban and suburban areas for commercial and societal purposes like search and rescue missions and delivery services. However, the risk involved with flying over populated areas has yet to be quantified, which can lead to unease among the citizens below.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Atilla Dogan, a UTA associate professor of aerospace engineering, will use an NSF grant to quantify risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles, like the one pictured above. He and his team will then create algorithms to reduce those risks while the vehicles perform specific tasks.

Atilla Dogan, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, will use a $550,000 National Science Foundation grant to quantify risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles, then create algorithms to reduce those risks while the vehicles perform specific tasks.

UTA researchers Manfred Huber, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Brian Huff, UTA associate professor in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering; Kamesh Subbarao, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Yan Wan, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering; are co-PIs on the grant.

To use UAS to their full potential, they must be autonomous and able to operate around people while respecting safety, privacy and regulatory concerns. Dogan and his team will quantify the risks of operating the UAS with regard to these considerations, then develop dynamic risk assessment and guidance algorithms to compute flight paths that will lead to the least amount of risk while executing a task. 

The project will indicate how autonomous an unmanned aerial system can actually be while operating in populated areas. It also will help the Federal Aviation Administration develop regulations for UAS flight and contribute to multiple fields including autonomy, mobile networking and intelligent control, with applications in health, transportation and manufacturing.

“Our objective is to increase public acceptance of UAS technology by demonstrating safe operation in various risk conditions, and to benefit commercial UAS use and the related job market,” Dogan said.

“The knowledge we acquire through this research will not only minimize risks, but will increase the ability of UAS to communicate with ground controllers and each other. We also hope to increase the ability of the vehicle to process information and learn from it to improve performance.”

Dogan and his team have worked together for several years in UTA’s Unmanned Vehicle Systems certificate program, which is a multi-departmental effort to provide undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to earn multi-disciplinary skills and experience in this area.

Erian Armanios, chair of the Mechanical and Engineering Department in UTA’s College of Engineering, said the grant and the certificate programs are examples of UTA’s commitment to sustainable urban communities and data-driven discovery within the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“Autonomous vehicles are emerging as a way of life in accomplishing many tasks in urban society. Dr. Dogan’s research would accelerate their broad implementation by ensuring safety and improving efficiency,” Armanios said.

 -- written by Jeremy Agor