Myra Cohen and Robyn Lutz: Providing Safer Skies for Drone Flight

July 10, 2023

 photo of Robyn LutzIndustries worldwide are increasingly using drone technology to enhance the efficiency of their business practices. However, the growing number of drones also brings concerns regarding congestion and safety in a limited airspace. To address these challenges, government agencies and researchers are collaborating to build new automated techniques that can ensure the safety of our skies.

To enable safe skies while continuing to advance the use of drone technology, Myra Cohen (left) and Robyn Lutz (right), Professors in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University, and their students, are working with a multi-institution research team dedicated to finding novel solutions for this problem.

With 3 years of funding from NASA, the team, headed by Jane Cleland-Huang, Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Notre Dame University, are pursuing research that they hope will eventually lead to safer skies. Their primary focus will be on developing an automated decision-making system to evaluate whether individual small drones can safely enter a congested airspace, complementing NASA's existing drone traffic management system. This advanced system aims to replace the current process, which was not built to handle the increase in the volume of drone traffic that is expected to be seen in the future.

"We are excited to be part of this multi-institution, multi-million-dollar initiative. We believe our combined expertise in safety and testing brings a unique set of skills to the team, and we look forward to working on this project," said Cohen, the principal investigator at ISU.

Notre Dame's receipt of a $5.3 million grant from NASA is one of four NASA University Leadership Initiative grants awarded this year. These grants provide university faculty and students with opportunities to support NASA's research goals by addressing the key challenges of air travel while offering students invaluable hands-on research experience. The research team includes experts from Notre Dame, Iowa State University, Saint Louis University, the University of Texas in El Paso, DePaul University, and the DroneResponders Public Safety Alliance.

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