Student: Gage MacLin, graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, University of Iowa
Faculty Advisor: Venanzio Cichella
Advancing UAV-Manned Aircraft Integration Through Optimal Control
My research project focuses on the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into traditional air traffic systems operating in proximity to airports, which is a topic of ongoing investigation by various NASA research groups. This research falls within the broader domain known as Urban Air Mobility (UAM), which strives to create an efficient autonomous vehicle system for urban environments characterized by heavy air traffic. The primary goal of UAM is to ensure the safe and efficient operation of UAVs in complex urban airspace. Weare developing a cooperative planning and control framework that will enable the safe integration of UAVs into traditional air traffic systems. The bulk of this work lies in quantifying the rules of the road of aerial navigation and to then design an optimal control framework that provides the UAVs with optimal, efficient, and guaranteed-safe trajectories to allow the integration of UAVs into the complex, safety-critical environment that is the airspace. This cooperative planning and control framework will enable UAVs to navigate through the airspace, respond to dynamic changes in traffic patterns, and make autonomous decisions to avoid collisions with manned aircraft. This research has the potential to revolutionize the airspace, allowing UAVs to coexist seamlessly with conventional air traffic systems. With this work, we aim to enhance the safety and efficiency of urban airspace and contribute to the realization of Urban Air Mobility.