Newswise — HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (June 3, 2019) – The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) are collaborating in drone research.

The two universities signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for development policy, programs and use in research, education and other commercial areas.

“This partnership brings together two universities and two centers with long histories of research, development, testing and evaluation in aerospace and the UAS sector in particular,” says Dr. Luis Cifuentes, NMSU vice president for research. “Our joint strengths will create unique research and education capacities.”

Dr. Robert Lindquist, interim UAH vice president for research and economic development, agrees.

“It seems clear that the use of drones will be ubiquitous in our society and that collaborative research teams such as the one being formed between NMSU and UAH will be critical to solve the emerging engineering and safety challenges that will inevitably emerge,” says Dr. Lindquist. “We are excited to see how this partnership grows and develops.”

Jerry Hendrix, UAH director of Unmanned Aerial Systems Programs responsible for UAS research, says the MOU paves the way for collaboration. Hendrix is co-principal investigator for the MOU with Henry Cathey, deputy director of NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory.

“This agreement certainly is timely considering that the new NMSU president and the incoming UAH president are friends and both were at Kansas State University at the same time,” Hendrix says.

“Growing UAS research and engineering and expanding the strength of UAS operations by combining the best from each institutions offers both institutions advancement opportunities in key areas,” Hendrix says. “UAH’s and NMSU’s reputations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are stellar and both are active members of the FAA UAS Research Center of Excellence under the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, or ASSURE.”

Combining the engineering strength of UAH and the experienced FAA UAS Test Site at NMSU, the MOU strengthens the ability of the collective team to offer solutions to emerging UAS domain problems, Hendrix says.

Under the agreement, they will: 

  • Jointly pursue research opportunities supporting UAS design, research, operations, mission planning, and testing focused primarily at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. (U.S. Army and Missile Defense Agency), White Sands Missile Range, Fort Bliss and at Sandia National Laboratory, along with the companies that support UAS programs at those locations.
  • Jointly pursue efforts related to UAS detections in the National Airspace/Counter UAS/Security UAS areas by working closely with the FAA, FAA Center of Excellence, Redstone Arsenal, DOD/DARPA, Sandia National Lab, NASA and other entities or locations.
  • Develop and test alternative energy sources for UAS.
  • Jointly search for active Other Transactional Agreements (OTA) and similar mechanisms to support NASA, DOD, other government agencies, government entities, etc., in UAS projects.
  • Support the FAA Center of Excellence program including implementation of joint STEM camps to further introduce young people to the UAS domain.
  • Provide resources (labor and materials), as appropriate, to support each organization’s contracts and research.Seek opportunities to involve students at both institutions to further open the interaction amongst the universities, in each area of collaboration.

About The University of Alabama in Huntsville

A university launched from America's quest to conquer space, The University of Alabama in Huntsville is one of America’s premier doctoral-granting, research-intensive universities. Located in second largest research park in the United States, UAH has robust capabilities in astrophysics, cybersecurity, data analytics, logistics and supply chain management, optical systems and engineering, reliability and failure analysis, rotorcraft and unmanned systems, severe weather, space propulsion, and more. UAH prepares students for demanding positions in engineering, the sciences, business, nursing, education, the arts, humanities, and social sciences.