Newswise — Instances of air travel and air transport are expanding rapidly, as is unmanned aircraft system (UAS) use. Yet aircraft cannot operate safely without highly reliable and efficient communications among aircraft, ground stations and other entities.

To ensure continued safety in our increasingly populated skies, a team of universities and private industry has been awarded a three-year, $4.4 million NASA grant to continue researching and enhancing aeronautical communications.

The team is led by the University of South Carolina professor and principal investigator David Matolak, with Boise State University co-PI Hani Mehrpouyan, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering who will manage more than $1.1 million of the award. The team also includes researchers from North Carolina State University (co-PI Ismail Guvenc) and the Architecture Technology Corporation (co-PI Paul Davis). Their work will support a strategic thrust at NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

In an effort to make the planet's airspace safer, the team is researching ways to dramatically enhance the capabilities of aviation communication and networking systems. The project also will encompasses networking and asynchronous transfer modes, including aspects of navigation and surveillance.

"There will inevitably come a time when UAS, passenger travel and transport all operate together in a fully integrated, mixed-use airspace worldwide," explained Mehrpouyan. "A full and sophisticated set of sensors aboard the aircraft significantly enhance safety and efficiency and allow a high level of aircraft autonomy, however, we need to be able to transmit this information among the various entities to coordinate in densely populated airspace. We expect that greater autonomous capabilities will generate and consume more and more information, increasing the demand on networks and requiring data rates far larger than ever used in civil aviation.”

Mehrpouyan is working to quantify capacity and efficiency gains of widespread mmWave wireless airport subnetworks. His intent is to measure and model example channels and validate prototype mmWave system(s) in example airport network operations.

Mehrpouyan’s research collaboration stands to provide reliable, high-capacity communication links that will facilitate autonomous planning and scheduling, and multi-vehicle cooperation and interoperability, thereby making the planet's airspace a safer place to navigate.

This desire to make the world better, safer and healthier is what drives many students to study electrical and computer engineering. Mehrpouyan noted that "many students do not get the chance to connect what they learn in class to a positive impact on society, but in this research, it is easy to see the positive impact one engineer can have. Electrical and computer engineering is one discipline that provides a concrete way to merge specialized knowledge and technical skills with social impact."

Mehrpouyan earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Queens University, Kingston, Canada, in 2011. He is the recipient of the National Science Foundation EARS grant for his research in the area of millimeter-wave communications, Department of Defense Instrumentation Grant, and NASA seed grant. For more information about Mehrpouyan and his research, visit

The project or effort depicted was or is sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, The content of the information does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the federal government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.