Posted in | News | Drones and UAVs

UC Researchers Receive NASA Grant to Improve Drone Navigation

The University of Cincinnati and a Pennsylvania company received a small business grant from NASA to work on improving the autonomous navigation of drones.

UC Researchers Receive NASA Grant to Improve Drone Navigation.
Bryan Brown and Austin Wessels operate a drone that UC used to capture traffic data in a 2018 project. Image Credit: Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

UC will split $50 million in Small Business Innovation Research grants with 41 other public universities and 257 small national firms.

NASA is working on ambitious, groundbreaking missions that require innovative solutions from a variety of sources, especially our small businesses.

Pam Melroy, Deputy Administrator, NASA

Kelly Cohen, a professor of aerospace engineering in the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science, will collaborate with the Carnegie, Pennsylvania-based business VISIMO to create a testing environment that helps in assessing the stability and safety of artificial intelligence models used in autonomous drones.

The study will evaluate the intricate sensor fusion and decision-making processes required for real-time autonomous navigation using a 3D simulation.

The simulations, according to the grant proposal, will help put artificial intelligence to the test in scenarios that contain cascade failures in emergency situations, such as a sudden storm that disables a drone’s sensor or cameras.

The project’s goal is to provide a testing environment that can vouch for the safety of autonomous drone flight algorithms in national airspace. Additionally, it will create tools to verify the algorithms for prognostics, vehicle health, sensor fusion, decision-making, and cooperative planning that are utilized in autonomous flight.

The initiative, according to VISIMO, could help telemedicine, delivery, search and rescue, and agricultural applications.

Certification of autonomous aircraft is the first step towards operating beyond line of sight, which will revolutionize the use of these vehicles.

Alex Moskowitz, Grant Principal Investigator, Data Scientist, VISIMO

According to Moskowitz, drones are used to transport goods to people during catastrophes and when roads and bridges are unavailable.

Kelly Cohen and his team are world-class experts in the field of autonomy. Their partnership brings a wealth of knowledge to VISIMO’s artificial intelligence and autonomy portfolio. We have seen historic success through partnering with Dr. Cohen on Air Force autonomy projects. Our NASA win marks the next stage in what we see as a rich, long-term partnership.

Alex Heit, Vice President, Partnerships and Strategy, VISIMO

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