Wright State Consortium Gets $3.5M Loan to Build UAS Operator Research Centre

A consortium of the Wright State Research Institute and area companies will create 50 full-time jobs with an average wage of about $90,000 a year to work with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to study human performance.

The advanced-degree jobs, in areas such as the neurosciences, will be created in the next 12 to 18 months, said Stephanie Gottschlich, a Wright State spokeswoman. The work will investigate how to improve the performance of both unmanned aircraft operators and analysts, she said.

The Human Performance Consortium, a group made up of the Air Force, Wright State University, and industry, will collaborate on the effort, Gottschlich said.

The project cleared a final hurdle Monday when a state Controlling Board gave a go-ahead to a $3.5 million loan to Wright State Applied Research Corp., the contracting arm of the institute, to pay for research space and equipment.

The loan’s approval was announced by state Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, a member of the board. The state previously set aside $1.5 million for the joint initiative with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Human Effectiveness Directorate at Wright-Patterson.

The money will build the infrastructure needed to support Air Force-funded research of up to an additional $5 million over five years that could help a pilot simultaneously handle multiple UAS in flight, among other priorities, officials said.

“This is the kind of thing I think the Department of Defense needs and wants as funding pressures become more and more real,” Widener said. “Collaboration and sharing of resources becomes even more critical.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is beginning a process to designate six test sites nationwide for flying remotely piloted aircraft. Having designated airspace in the region for test-flying unmanned aircraft is critical, advocates said.

Landing one of those sites is considered key to supporting research, development, training and manufacturing for unmanned aerial systems. Unmanned aircraft systems have the potential to be an $80 billion industry worldwide in the next decade.

The effort will need neuromedical imaging equipment, operator controller systems and UAS ground control stations, among other things. Researchers will monitor brain activity and track eye movements, among other scientific investigations on how well humans process data.

The consortium includes Science Applications International Corp., Kettering Health Network, Applied Research Associates, SelectTech Geospatial and Booz Allen Hamilton, among 15 companies in the partnership, officials said.

The Air Force in general is “always looking to partner with other organizations because the bottom line is you split the (research and development) cost,” said Daryl Mayer, a Wright-Patterson spokesman.

A partnership with academia and industry brings more knowledge to the problem, he said.

The Springfield Air National Guard Base also is transitioning to a mission remotely piloting MQ-1 Predators.

The Air Force previously awarded the university two other human performance research contracts worth up to $6.4 million.

Source: Dayton Daily News

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