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Funding, Grants & Awards

Embry-Riddle Receives $1 Million from Feds for Phase II of Intelligent Aerial Systems Project

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida Wednesday received a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as part of the second phase of a project to build a specialized flight control system capable of navigating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in unknown environments.

During Phase I of the grant program, Embry-Riddle researchers, in partnership with engineering research and development firm Creare LLC, received $150,000 to make the Droidworx SkyJib X4 quadcopter, according to a news release. The UAV had “sensor equipment that included monocular, stereo and infrared camera, a scanning LiDAR and an inertial navigation system with GPS.”

Moving into Phase II, the system will operate without GPS by incorporating recent developments in small, low-power and low-cost sensor technology and improved computer hardware. It will incorporate an autonomous, high-performance guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system that achieves 3D terrain sensing capabilities through the use of vision sensors and laser-based LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors. 

Researchers also developed a high-fidelity virtual environment to simulate autonomous UAV flights in urban environments — offering six degrees-of-freedom UAV models, sensor models and hardware-in-the-loop simulation capability, the news release stated.

The Embry-Riddle team is led by assistant professors of aerospace engineering Richard Prazenica, Troy Henderson and Hever Moncayo. In addition, the team comprises graduate students in the Aerospace Engineering Department.

“The UAV should be able to accomplish its mission using vision and navigation sensors without the aid of GPS, which can be unavailable in cluttered urban or indoor environments,” Henderson  commented in the news release. “Military and law enforcement applications might include bomb damage identification and assessment, or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions without putting soldiers’ lives at risk.”

“Potential uses for [intelligent UAVs] include search and rescue missions or remote surveillance and assessment of conditions too hazardous for humans,” Prazenica said. “This intelligent, autonomous UAV could explore unmapped or unsafe environments to locate someone injured in an earthquake, or assist and communicate with firefighters while gathering information as it moves through a smoke-filled building.”

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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