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Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The Ohio State University is an internationally-recognized leader in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) research and operations.  Ohio State has nearly 50 faculty and research staff who have UAS-related expertise spanning the domains of engineering, agriculture, medicine, data analytics, climate modeling, law, and policy.  Recent collaborative activity includes cutting-edge topics such as drone detection technology and policy, ingestion of a UAS into a jet engine, human injury resulting from a drone crash, human-systems interaction, ground control station design, development of robust control links that are resistant to jamming or hijacking, development of a high-speed unmanned jet, remote sensing of crop health, and aerial surveying of harmful algal bloom toxicity.

Ohio State is a core member of the FAA’s ASSURE Center of Excellence on Integrating UAS in the National Airspace System.  This center is a consortium of the top 15 core universities in the United States doing UAS research to improve the safety of flight.  The COE is studying critical questions related to the safe and efficient integration of UAS into the congested airspace system.  Ohio State is in the top tier of institutions, having secured over $1M in funding within the first three years of the 10-year center.

Research projects have included:

  • Assessment of damage resulting from ingestion of a UAS in a jet engine
  • Determination of damage or injury resulting from a ground collision, through cadaver testing
  • Uncertainty estimation of surveillance systems (radar, transponders), and its impact on definitions of aircraft separation criteria
  • Human factors implications of ground control station design
  • Mitigation of interference and jamming hazards to the reliability of the control link
  • Passive radar for detection of UAS, without requirements for emitting radar signals

Ohio State recently demonstrated groundbreaking UAS technology through a record-setting flight of the autonomous Avanti turbojet over Lake Erie.  The Avanti is a turbojet-powered UAV with avionics systems that were custom-designed and built by Ohio State researchers.  Key technical features include triple-redundant inertial measurement units, dual-redundant terrestrial radio links, live communications link via satellite in geosynchronous orbit, and fault-tolerant autonomous flight capability.  The Ohio State team flew the Avanti at Kelley’s Island airport in August 2017 to set world records (pending review) for speed (147 mph) and out-and-back distance (28 miles) over Lake Erie.  The key technical challenges overcome by the team included ensuring robustness of the control link, safe operations beyond visual line of sight, and validation of flight autonomy.  This achievement garnered international press attention for Ohio, including an article in Aviation Week magazine.

Beyond our key strengths, we have expertise and experience across all the domains of interest for FAA UAS research.  Ohio State has an active aviation program and flight school, with a strong asset in the Ohio State Airport (KOSU), a university-owned and operated airport located in/under complex controlled (Class D / Class C) airspace.  Ohio State has a number of unmanned flight vehicles available for research including multi-rotors, several Bat-3 aircraft, and the custom-designed Peregrine.  Ohio State has deep research connections with Ohio-based government labs active in UAS (AFRL, NASA Glenn), industry (GE Aviation), and partner universities.  There is extremely strong support from the state of Ohio in the Ohio/Indiana UAS Test Site Complex, with test sites across the state.  Ohio State has substantial experience with FAA Centers of Excellence: Ohio State is a core integration university for PEGASAS (Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability) and a core member of NEXTOR II (FAA Consortium in Aviation Operations Research).  Ohio State is also a competitor in NASA’s UAS Challenge, focused on development and flight demonstration of detect-and-avoid capability.

As a research university, Ohio State has one of the most comprehensive research programs in the area of Aerospace, Aviation, and Flight (AAF).  Research funding in this area alone in the College of Engineering exceeds $160 Million, including more than $45M in industrial research expenditures over the last ten years.  More than 300 graduate students conduct research in this area annually throughout the Center for Aviation Studies, the Aerospace Research Center, and the ElectroScience Laboratory.  Research facilities include more than a half-million square feet of laboratories with a capital equipment value of more than $108M.  Ohio State is a land-grant institution with a Carnegie classification as a research university with very high research activity.

For more information on Ohio State’s UAS activities, please contact Professor Jim Gregory at gregory.234@osu.edu.