North Dakota eyed for UAS ‘mall’

Global Hawk arrives at Grand Forks Air Force Base, June 2011. Photo by Ben Trapnell, University of North Dakota

By JUAN MIGUEL PEDRAZA

In a visit to Grand Forks, N.D, just ahead of election day, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) got a good look at a spot for a mall — an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) mall.

A key spot on the tour was the University of North Dakota’s UAS facilities. UND would be a key tenant of the mall.

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Driving drones can be a drag

Study shows distractions may alleviate boredom and improve drone operators’ performance.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On its surface, operating a drone looks a lot like playing a video game: Operators sit at workstations, manipulating joysticks to remotely adjust a drone’s pitch and elevation, while grainy images from the vehicle’s camera project onto a computer screen. An operator can issue a command to fire if an image reveals a hostile target, but such adrenaline-charged moments are few and far between.

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NASA and partners test unmanned aircraft technology in N.D.

Cirrus in flight

By KATHERINE BARNSTORFF, NASA Langley Research Center

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A research team made of officials from government, industry, and higher education has completed two weeks of flight testing of “sense and avoid” technology that could some day help unmanned aircraft better integrate into the national air transportation system.

The MITRE Corporation and the University of North Dakota (UND) developed automatic sense and avoid computer software codes that were flown on board a NASA Langley Research Center general aviation aircraft. The NASA Langley Cirrus SR-22 flew 147 maneuvers during 39 hours of flight tests at the Grand Forks International Airport. A supporting UND aircraft flew more than 40 hours during the tests.

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Creating an unmanned aircraft that can sense-and-avoid

University of North Dakota electrical engineer Naima Kaabouch, second from right, and UND mechanical engineer William Semke, second from left, work with students on a UAS unit in the UAS lab on campus.

By JUAN MIGUEL PEDRAZA, Office of University Relations, University of North Dakota

It looks easy to fly unmanned aircraft: Launch, fly, land. But there’s lots more to keeping an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) safely aloft than toggling controls from the ground.

“Among the major technical challenges facing the UAS industry is the sense-and-avoid system aboard the aircraft,” said Naima Kaabouch, associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of North Dakota College of Engineering and Mines and an expert in sense-and-avoid electronics and software.

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UAS operation in the homeland

“According to a recent national poll conducted by Monmouth University in New Jersey, nearly two-thirds of Americans support the use of unmanned aircraft [systems] (UAS) to protect the U.S. borders and control illegal immigration. Eighty percent of Americans support the use of unmanned aircraft to help in search and rescue missions.”

The above is included in Michael Toscano’s prepared testimony for the House Committee on Homeland Security hearing set for July 19, 2012. Toscano is the president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

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