Sharing airspaceRegional integration important for unmanned, manned aircraft
By: Alan Van Ormer, Prairie Business Magazine
Airspace will be a key component if the region’s unmanned aircraft systems programs are to move forward. This is one of several topics that will be addressed at the Red River Valley Research Corridor’s 2012 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Action Summit on May 22 and 23 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.
Eric Icard, senior business development officer for the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., says it is important for the region to integrate the national space system to fly unmanned aircraft with manned aircraft. As early as September, North Dakota officials should know if the region’s airspace will be one of six chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to research.
“This will allow us to broaden our ability to develop non-DOD (U.S. Department of Defense) related industries in the region’s airspace,” Icard says.
Joshua Simmers, manager of aerospace business development for the North Dakota Department of Commerce in Bismarck, N.D., says the industry is ready for growth in the private sector, but in order to grow there has to be space in the sky to fly the unmanned aircraft.
“The summit helps bring together those who develop ideas that the FAA is looking for to develop this airspace integration,” he says.
Simmers adds that there has been job growth in UAS development throughout the state. “Just a couple of areas in which we have had tremendous opportunity are energy, law enforcement and emergency preparedness.”
Another key component dealing with airspace is sense and avoid; a subject that will be discussed at length during the summit.
Regulations require pilots to see and avoid. Since there is no pilot onboard remotely piloted aircraft, technology is being developed that will help the aircraft detect obstacles and avoid them while in the air.
William Semke, associate professor in mechanical engineering at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, notes that programs dealing with sense and avoid are needed. “Algorithms on board the aircraft sense the presence of a potential obstacle and redirect the plane to avoid the obstacle,” he says.
Semke is one of many who have been working on the technology to assist with sense and avoid. For example, a camera system has been developed that has greater resolution and is able to generate more data to assist with sense and avoid techniques. He is also developing a system that can help with safety levels of all aircraft.
“Sense and avoid may be an added benefit to manned aircraft,” Semke says.
“The sense and avoid portion of airspace is a major challenge,” he notes. “For example, if something gets in the way, the aircraft may not know it is there. If there is a malfunction, what will the aircraft do? For example, if the engine dies where will it land?”
Semke adds, however, that the aircraft is reliable, sophisticated and has come a long way since its origins.More from around the web