Rowan University Students’ Drone Cage Meets FAA’s Aviation STEM Challenge Head On: Don’t Miss It at Tech Center Tuesday!
By Kristen Knott, ATCA Writer and Editor
A visit to Tech Center Tuesday isn’t complete without stopping to admire the drone cage. Luckily, it’s impossible to miss in the center of the atrium. The drone zone cage is the centerpiece of the event and a representation of the Tech Center’s collaboration with government, academia, and industry.
The drone cage was on full display yesterday during the Tech Center’s first-ever Aviation STEM Day with 114 registered students from 22 schools and universities. The drone zone cage was designed by Rowan University engineering students and built by the FAA.
“It’s a perfect aviation STEM example,” says Karen DiMeo, UAS R&D Technical Lead for the FAA’s Tech Center, who helped spearhead the project from the FAA side. “This is a great opportunity to showcase it, and we’re actually getting real data from it.”
“The cage itself strikes a presence, but what happens inside is equally as fascinating,” says Sean Fischer, Associate Dean for External Affairs for Rowan University, who helped coordinate the effort.
Inside the cage, each drone is streaming positional data live over the FAA’s NextGen Prototyping Network (NPN) back to the Virtual Reality Laboratory at Rowan University, all of which is on display next to the cage. This enables Rowan University researchers to simulate visual acquisition of UAS using state-of-the-art computer imaging and mapping technologies.
The project came together in a matter of weeks. It all began in March when the FAA reached out to Rowan University for students to submit concept designs. The drone cage data and technology was developed between the Tech Center labs and Rowan University’s virtual reality CAVE lab as part of a grant with the university.
“I would give the leadership credit on this project back to our students – they really embraced this project,” says Fischer. “We have a long history of strong collaboration with the FAA in terms of supporting research and with our students interning and moving on into careers with [the Agency]. It reflects the hands-on, minds-on philosophy of our engineering education at the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering.”
A group of Rowan University students pauses for a picture with FAA Tech Center UAS R&D Technical
Lead Karen DiMeo.