UB researchers work on drone contract for Navy

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – University at Buffalo researchers and graduate students are in the midst of two projects involving drones.The first is a five million dollar contract for the US Navy to perfect a way to send a batch of five or six quad-copters to search for something together on a grid.

UB’s assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, Manoranjan Majji says the quad copters they’re working with would eventually be larger and help find a lost ship or an enemy ship that’s not responding.”They look at changing colored light LEDs that represent in the real world a situation where at UAV is tracking a marine target.”

In another room on UB’s Amherst campus, other graduate students are trying to perfect something they believe they can market to police by this fall. Majji describes an unmanned plane that can be programmed by computer to find whatever you tell it to find with high level description targets.”If you say you want to track a blue car, they have written software that can track a blue car in the frame.”

“That technology is there. I see it in the horizon and we are on the cusp of it. We can give very good demonstrations in October.” said Majji.

Just the idea of unmanned aircraft like these make a lot of people uneasy.

With Amazon hoping to use drones for deliveries, and the ability for anyone to buy one with a video camera for less than a thousand dollars, the FAA promises to take the issues surrounding privacy into account. The FAA plans to put out more specific rules about unmanned aircraft by the end of this year.
For now, UB researchers perfect what they can indoors…and they have an account with the FAA to fly these autonomous aircraft outdoors when needed at a test site in Rome, New York.

UB CUBRC Professor John Crassidis understands why some people are nervous about the sudden surge in drone technology. “Technology is happening. When Amazon put out their video about delivering your packages…that’s gonna happen someday. We’re a very cutting edge University and we always want to stay on top of that, and we’re never gonna sit on the sidelines.”

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