Wednesday, October 3, 2018

OU Engineering Professor Receives DARPA Young Faculty Award

Andrea L'Afflitto and Michel Fiddy, DARPA Young Faculty Award Program Manager
Funding goes toward development of military drones

Andrea L’Afflitto, an assistant professor at the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma, has received the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Young Faculty Award for his proposal to develop autonomous drones for tactical operations.

“We are at dawn of new technology as drones continue making great strides,” said L’Afflitto. “However, there’s still a lot more to explore with how this technology can be advantageous to our lives.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency award will fund the development of unmanned aerial systems such as drones. Existing technology, such as quadcopters or machines with robotic arms, move laterally. L’Afflitto’s research focuses on teaching drones to act in a tactical manner while mimicking human movements and thoughts, specifically among the armed forces. He proposed ground troops would use drones during warfare, transportation and reconstruction so that risk of detection is minimized. The goal is to utilize drones as a relatively cost-effective way to perform duties without sacrificing personnel.

Although the drone market is increasing rapidly, there are valid arguments regarding ethics. L’Afflitto said it’s important to evaluate regulations, including key factors such as height limits, designated restricted zones such as civilian areas and consistent oversight with surveillance.

“There’s definitely a moral responsibility related to interacting with drones,” said L’Afflitto. “Safety should always be a top priority. Effective countermeasures can help prevent accidents and liability.”

DARPA Young Faculty awards identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and researchers at nonprofit research institutions with the aim of addressing national security challenges and advancing fundamental research in diverse disciplines.

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