NASA has selected four teams of university faculty and students to solve key challenges facing the future of air travel as part of the agency’s University Leadership Initiative.
This initiative gives the academic community an opportunity to support NASA’s aeronautical research goals and provide students experience in cracking real-world technical challenges.
“The University Leadership Initiative is an integral part of our research portfolio,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The multidisciplinary teams are directly contributing to our priorities and even leading the exploration of solutions beyond our current portfolio.”
Three of the four teams will address topics related to ensuring the safe growth of Advanced Air Mobility, while the fourth will examine an option for generating electricity to propel a future airliner. As the teams work on their projects, they will work with other universities and industry partners – creating opportunities for participation that include students with diverse experiences, backgrounds, and talents.
“This multidisciplinary approach enables the lead teams to partner with others, including student populations who are underrepresented or have not been involved before in aviation research,” said Koushik Datta, University Leadership Initiative project manager. “As we look to future growth in Advanced Air Mobility and an increasing emphasis on creating truly sustainable aviation, it’s important we involve today’s students in helping us solve tomorrow’s challenges.”
The four teams selected for final negotiations could lead to awards worth a combined total of up to $25.1 million during the next four years. The teams and their research topics are:
New Mexico State University
The team will gather data about current and projected AAM operations to help produce models that could inform decisions on how the electric grid infrastructure can support future AAM activity, including the demand for aircraft charging stations.
Team members include The George Washington University, University of Tennessee in Knoxville, University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, University of Maryland in Baltimore County, Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Argonne National Laboratory, and Whisper Aero.
The team will focus on developing models for predicting how to minimize noise from AAM vehicles flying within dense urban environments where wind conditions can rapidly change. These models also might provide guidance on suitable locations for vertiports that minimize noise during takeoff and landing.
Team members include Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Tuskegee University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Joby Aviation.
University of Notre Dame
The team intends to develop an automated decision-making capability that ensures small drones are safe before they fly using a NASA-developed drone traffic management system. This automated system would replace a manually intensive process that is limited in its ability to handle increasing drone traffic.
Team members include Iowa State University, Saint Louis University, University of Texas in El Paso, DePaul University, and DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Alliance.
Tennessee Technological University
The team aims to develop a preliminary design for an electrified 150-passenger aircraft that uses an ammonia-based integrated propulsion, power, and thermal management system.
Team members include Tennessee State University, The Ohio State University, University of Dayton, University of Washington – Bothell, Boeing Research & Technology, Raytheon Technologies Research Center, and Special Power Sources.
New awardees join university leadership initiative alumni
This is the sixth round of awards for the initiative.
Selections of four teams and six teams were made in 2021. Five teams were chosen in 2020, three teams were announced in 2019, and five teams were selected for the inaugural initiative in 2017.
An official notice for the next request for proposals is expected later this year.
Learn more about the University Leadership Initiative here.
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