September 06, 2013

Jeanette Grider

Parks Launches Unmanned Systems Research

Saint Louis University has partnered with Prioria Robotics, Inc. of Gainesville, Fla., to launch a research and development program in unmanned systems. This program will lay the foundation for the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) both for operators and maintainers. Unlike the manned flight arena, there are limited standards or qualifications required to fly a UAV.  

From left: Jason Grzywna, Prioria Robotics; Jeffrey Cerecke, General Dynamics; Damon Lercel, Ph.D., SLU/CASR Program Director; Bryan da Frota, Prioria Robotics; K. Ravindra, Ph.D., Parks College Associate Dean

SLU's Center for Aviation Safety Research (CASR) at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology will develop cognitive task analysis to identify specific knowledge, skills and abilities. The Center will also develop the standards required to safely operate UAVs. This analysis and the subsequent standards may be incorporated into the federal regulatory framework.

There's much more to UAVs than flying. In fact, UAVs provide a platform for an entire lifecycle of product development, testing, operation, service, repair and re-launch. The comprehensive range of academic programs and research projects at SLU allows researchers to conduct research in a wide variety of areas such as: designing, developing and testing the vehicles; developing and testing sensor technologies including atmospheric sampling and imaging; forming public policies related to privacy, security and the vehicle certification process.

The lessons learned from UAV research can, in turn, be applied to submerged (underwater) vehicles or surface vehicles. More broadly, today's UAVs, particularly the small-sized, experimental vehicles, offer extensive opportunities for micro robotics that could be developed for an infinite range of functions.

Theodosios Alexander, Sc.D., Dean of Parks College, is particularly excited about this research.

"It serves as a unifying theme, bringing faculty and students from engineering, aviation, technology, business, public policy, psychology and even journalism together," Alexander said.
"The range of applications is only limited by our capacity to imagine."

"In the future, the aerospace workforce will need to be skilled at working with composite materials, sensors, computer networks and programmable systems," said Manoj Patankar, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center for Aviation Safety Research. "Our research is laying the groundwork to prepare the next generation of the aerospace workforce."

Damon Lercel, Ph.D., Program Director of the Center for Aviation Safety Research, added that universities and states across the nation are adding research capabilities as well as manufacturing and testing capabilities for products and services throughout the UAV-value chain.

"Unmanned systems will bring a wide variety of jobs to Missouri and the region," Lercel noted.
"In fact, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, International estimates that by 2017, 1,338 new jobs will be created in Missouri alone, with an economic impact of $260 million. Nationally, it estimates that integration of unmanned aircraft systems in the National Airspace System will create 34,000 manufacturing jobs and 70,000 new jobs in the first three years alone."

Responding to the projected job growth, Stephen Belt, Ph.D., Chair of the Aviation Science Department at SLU's Parks College, said, "we have developed an adaptable academic program structure that will allow students to match their interests in manned and unmanned flight, without having exclude one for the other. This approach presents an innovative approach to designing a curriculum that will remain fresh, relevant and synchronized with the needs of the industry and the broader society."

About the Center for Aviation Safety Research
The Center for Aviation Safety Research, through funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, was established to solve crucial aviation safety challenges and research Next Generation technology and workforce solutions. Most of the staff researchers are concurrently enrolled in graduate programs in the Department of Aviation Science where they pursue a master's or a Ph.D. program in Aviation.

About Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
Saint Louis University's Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology strives to cultivate practitioners, leaders, and thinkers in aviation, engineering, and science by disseminating and integrating values, knowledge and skills in the pursuit of truth. Parks College was founded by Oliver "Lafe" Parks in 1927, and was the first federally approved school of aeronautics, receiving Air Agency Certificate #1.
During the World War II era, the college and its subsidiaries were responsible for training one of every 10 Army Air Corps pilots, plus thousands of aircraft mechanics. In 1946, Oliver Parks gave Parks College to Saint Louis University. It is the only Jesuit university in the U.S. with a flight program.

Today, Parks College has a worldwide reputation for exemplary aviation and aerospace engineering programs through a variety of undergraduate and graduate disciplines, including aerospace engineering, aviation management, flight sciences/professional piloting, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

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