University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

UND, NASA to test UAS technology at Grand Forks Airport Thursday

UND, NASA, and the MITRE Corp. will host flight demonstrations (weather permitting) using a NASA Langley general aviation aircraft—a Cirrus SR-22, partially built at the Cirrus factory in Grand Forks—as a unique test bed to assess and mimic unmanned aircraft systems. The demonstrations are scheduled 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Grand Forks International Airport (signs will be posted to direct you to the demo site). Other presentations, hands-on activities, and static displays will go on between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Capitalizing on NASA Langley's years of flight test experience, the Cirrus SR-22 is equipped with special cockpit technology and computer equipment loaded with automatic "sense-and-avoid" software algorithms developed by MITRE and UND Aerospace. During the flight demonstration at the International Airport, the NASA aircraft will show how technology onboard can allow it to "sense and avoid" a UND Cessna 172 "intruder" plane flown by UND flight instructors. The Cirrus will have a safety pilot in the cockpit, but researchers say three computer programs developed by MITRE and one by UND will automatically fly the plane.

The flight demonstration is part of the Limited Deployment – Cooperative Airspace Project (LD-CAP). It is a research project designed to help better integrate unmanned aircraft, equipped with technology, such as satellite-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data-link tracking, into the national air transportation system. Remotely piloted, unmanned aircraft systems are growing in popularity and have many potential uses, including remote firefighting, search and rescue and surveillance. But their routine use in civil airspace creates technical, operational and policy challenges.

LD-CAP is trying to address one of the biggest challenges – the development of a way for unmanned aircraft to sense and avoid other aircraft to compensate for not having a pilot aboard capable of seeing and avoiding other aircraft. Automatic sense-and-avoid software includes the ability to keep aircraft safely separated from one another and to take immediate action to avoid any imminent collisions when the ground-based, remote pilot does not react. These initial flight tests will validate work done in simulation and help engineers determine how they can design systems so that unmanned aircraft can be safely incorporated into the skies.

Follow-on testing in 2013 is expected to feature additional advanced software by MITRE and UND as well as sense-and-avoid software managed by "Timeliner," a task automation framework developed by Draper Laboratory that is currently in use on the International Space Station.

UND Aerospace

The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the UND is a world renowned center for aerospace learning, nationally acclaimed for its achievements in collegiate aviation education, atmospheric research, space studies, earth system science and policy, and computer science applications. With over 500 faculty and staff members, more than 1,500 students from around the world, and myriad programs and projects, UND Aerospace is setting the pace for the future of flight.

NASA Langley Research Center

Solving the tough problems in air, space and earth science is what NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. has been known for almost since it was established as the United States' first civilian aeronautics laboratory in 1917. Researchers at NASA Langley are focusing on some of the biggest technical challenges of our time: global climate change, access to space, planetary exploration and revolutionizing airplanes and the air transportation system.

The MITRE Corporation

The MITRE Corporation is a not-for-profit organization that provides systems engineering, research and development, and information technology support to the government. It operates federally funded research and development centers for the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, with principal locations in Bedford, Mass., and McLean, Va. MITRE's participation in the joint LD-CAP research project is being financed by company research and initiative funds.

Draper Laboratory

Draper Laboratory is a not-for-profit, engineering research and development organization dedicated to solving critical national problems in national security, space systems, biomedical systems, and energy. Draper is developing advanced capabilities for remotely piloted aircraft based on its extensive experience with complex mission management, strategic guidance navigation and control, and advanced autonomy in unmanned underwater vehicles and spacecraft including the International Space Station.

Contacts:
Juan Miguel Pedraza, writer/editor
National Media Relations Coordinator
University of North Dakota |Office of University Relations
Office 701.777.6571| Cell 701.740.1321
juan.pedraza@UND.edu

Kathy Barnstorff
NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
757.864.9886 | 757.344.8511
kathy.barnstorff@nasa.gov

-- David L. Dodds, media relations/writer and editor, University Relations, 777.5529, david.dodds@UND.edu.


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