Drone Research Taking to the Skies Through New Urban Air Mobility Grant

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Video courtesy of Larsen Motorsports

You head to a “vertiport” and await the vehicle. The drone picks you up and flies you through the city, dropping you off at your destination.

This sounds like something out of the Jetsons, but it is an eventual reality – and Florida Tech is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to provide key research data to understand how urban air mobility vehicles will safely transport people.

Florida Tech and Georgia Tech are sharing a recently-awarded, $600,000 grant from the FAA to produce research test data on urban air mobility vehicles. At the Space Coast Drone Test Center at Valkaria Airport, Florida Tech flight test engineering chair Brian Kish, aerospace, physics and space sciences associate professor Markus Wilde and a group of students are testing the capability of drones by creating flight plans of various lengths, as well as different ratios of forward and vertical flights. The data collected will provide insight into the mechanical demands of drones based off the flight plans and will allow researchers to create models that, in turn, will be able to be tested on urban mobility vehicles.

Through a partnership with Chris Larsen at Florida Tech partner Larsen Motorsports for a Fall jet engine propulsion course, Kish learned Larsen ran the Space Coast Drone Test Center. After discussions with Larsen, the researchers now had a testing site.

In a similar way to how automated cars presented new safety and emergency protocols, the researchers at Florida Tech are examining the new safety mandates that will be needed for automated aerial vehicles.

“What we’re helping them do is to help them come up with the certification standards and criteria for the vehicles,” Kish said. “But before that we can do that, we have to run experiments on the type of vehicles being considered to see what the big things the FAA needs to look at.”

In the video above, courtesy of Larsen Motorsports, Kish, Wilde and research students are discussing the goals of the study, as well as the processes involved in gathering research that will have future air mobility implications.

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I write and record video about research at Florida Tech. For any inquiries, contact me at 321-674-8937 or rrandall@fit.edu.

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