Robert Jones, right, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, demonstrates the capabilities of a quadro-copter for Donald McKeown, distinguished researcher, left, and professor Agamemnon Crassidis. RIT, a national drone test site, will contribute its research into navigation and imaging systems technology as part of a university-industry partnership. (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)
Ever since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggested using drones to deliver packages
to customers, discussions about the
possible uses of unmanned aircraft
have taken a new flight path.
He might have easily been dismissed
as a dreamer or an opportunist. But Bezos’ announcement prompted a shift in thinking about unmanned aircraft systems from flights-of-fancy to real possibilities such as crop surveying, fighting forest fires, pipeline inspections, rescue operations, wildlife monitoring and disaster response. As the ideas mature and unmanned aircraft
systems become more sophisticated,
standard processes to assess usage,
safety and technology are necessary.
Drones, also referred to as unmanned
aircraft systems and more commonly
associated with the military and law
enforcement, are being developed for
a wider variety of commercial uses—
some of which may be developed at RIT.
The university is part of NUAIR, the Northeast Unmanned Aircraft System Airspace Integration Research Alliance, a group of more than 40 companies and universities in New York and Massachusetts selected in December 2013 as one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites in the U.S. The alliance will conduct research and testing of safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system. Nineteen universities are involved with RIT and Massachusetts Institute of Technology as regional academic leaders, said Agamemnon Crassidis, associate professor of mechanical engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.
“One of my key roles is to bring the
universities together to see what kinds of research they are doing and how we can
use that research,” said Crassidis, who will also serve on NUAIR’s board of directors.
RIT is well positioned for this work with expertise in sensor and aeronautic system development from the engineering college, and in remote sensing and imaging from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.
“This is a significant opportunity
to expand use of remote sensing and
imaging and make that imaging accessible to a broader constituency. In some disaster situations, especially with state or counties with tight budgets, access to low-cost
imaging is big for them,” said Donald McKeown, distinguished researcher in
the Carlson Center.