Unmanned aircraft have flown since the mid-1900s and are more than remote- controlled model planes. Today, they consist of complex systems for collision avoidance, automated controls and navigation; they also integrate imaging systems to gather and process data. RIT researchers have already been developing aspects of these technologies and can contribute to improving unmanned aircraft systems.
Regulations currently do not permit UAS operations above 400 feet without certification, and these allowances are given primarily to law enforcement or the military. The FAA has directed new test site teams like NUAIR to contribute recommendations about how corporate and commercial unmanned aircraft can be part of already crowded skies. The Northeast corridor where NUAIR will operate has some of the highest volumes of air traffic to control.
The team has already received testing and development requests since the December announcement and expects to have a formal test facility and process up within six months. “It’s not a competition between the sites, it’s just a goal for us,” said Crassidis. “What RIT brings to the table is its strong industry partners and our hands-on approach to teaching. Students will be involved in multidisciplinary projects related to this, plus undergraduate and graduate research. We will make use of our facilities, particularly the machine shop, wind tunnel and the Aero Design Club.”
Tim Southerton and Robert Jones, both fifth-year mechanical engineering students, are working on control systems for a Parrot AR Drone 2.0, a quadro-copter. They are upgrading the unmanned aircraft as part of a senior design project, integrating remote sensing equipment onto the frame and adding GPS navigation capabilities.
These capabilities and others being developed make Bezos’ idea of delivering packages seem not so far-fetched. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, UAS may provide 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. and more than $82 billion in economic outcomes by 2025.
Talk about soaring to new heights.