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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Scale New Heights Thanks to NASA
NASA is funding a major project on the future of autonomous air cargo transportation, and the Oden Institute will play a leading role. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout — the largest global logistics effort since World War II — has underscored the importance of increasing efficiencies in the global supply chain infrastructure. Autonomous aerial vehicles have the potential to revolutionize cargo transportation.
Researchers from the Oden Institute and the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering will lead a team that will develop methods that could be used to validate the cost and scalability of conceptual autonomous cargo operations. They will be providing theory and concepts for all types of vehicles — from large unmanned cargo aircraft crossing the U.S. to the single drone that can drop a package in residential neighborhoods.
The team includes experts from Purdue University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Lincoln Labs, Morgan State University, Del Valle ISD and an industry partner, Cavan Solutions, in a NASA University Leadership Initiative (ULI).
Public input is a key part of the research strategy. Lead investigator, Dr. Ufuk Topcu, is an advocate for developing a coordinated strategy that accounts for the many technical, economical and societal aspects of autonomy, and recently co-authored a report on this issue.
“The design of all new autonomous systems requires input from all stakeholders in society, not just scientists and engineers,” he said. “Public acceptance must be central to the design and operation decisions in advanced air mobility.”