University Researchers Seek to Cut Down Risks of Flying UAS Over People

Atilla Dogan, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, is using a $550,000 National Science Foundation grant to quantify risks posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS); then, he will 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, 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-principal investigators of the grant.

According to UTA, Dogan and his team will quantify the risks of operating drones with regard to respecting safety, privacy and regulatory concerns when they’re operating autonomously around people. They will 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 university explains.

The project will indicate how autonomous a UAS can actually be while operating in populated areas. The researchers also aim to help the Federal Aviation Administration develop further drone regulations 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 says.

“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 for undergraduate and graduate students.

Erian Armanios, chair of the Mechanical and Engineering Department in UTA’s College of Engineering, says 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 says.

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