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DORED Announces $5.3 Million Contract with United States Department of Defense

The Division of Research and Economic Development at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University announces it has secured a federal contract through the Test Resource Management Center within the U.S. Department of Defense. The four-year contract, with a value of $5.3 million is led by N.C. A&T commenced in January 2017 The goal is to create a data-driven intelligent prediction tool for the testing and evaluation (T&E) of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS), such as drones, rovers or other air and ground vehicles.

UAS technology is of increasing interest throughout scientific and even consumer circles, especially as it relates to military and transportation applications. The autonomy capabilities augmented with unmanned vehicles enables these systems to observe, record, make decisions and even take action in locations where physical human presence is either impossible or undesirable. Because UAS are separate entities from the people who operate them, their internal states and associated data may not be readily available to an operator. Better tools are needed to offer insight into UAS decision-making processes, giving operators the ability to (1) monitor and understand the UAS processes without interfering with them, (2) understand the behavioral state of a UAS during its mission, (3) understand the UAS’ perception capabilities, and (4) visualize its autonomy processes in real time through a user-friendly interface. The more aligned an operator is with a UAS’ state, the more effective an unmanned system can be. Achieving this goal has been the purpose of N.C. A&T’s research in this field, and the foundation for the deliverables which will result from this Department of Defense contract.

The contract will be completed in three phases; the development of T&E algorithms, simulation and soft-testing, and finally the implementation of the algorithms on actual Department of Defense platforms. For phases one and two, the Georgia Tech Research Institute will provide a team of unmanned vehicles for the project, with the ability to collaboratively search for ground targets using onboard vision processing.

About the ACIT institute

The Autonomous Control and Information Technology (ACIT) institute at N.C. A&T fosters interdisciplinary work to carry out research and education in autonomous control engineering and its applications. The technology transfer role of the institute includes workshops, seminars and demonstration projects designed to move new technologies from the laboratory to industry, and to educate technical personnel and managers on the opportunities and uses of the technologies. One of the Center’s under this institute is the Testing, Evaluation, and Control of Heterogeneous Large-scale Systems of Autonomous Vehicles (TECHLAV) Center, which is funded by the DoD Air Force Research Laboratory as a Center of Excellence in Autonomy. The TECHLAV Center comprises a strong multi-disciplinary team and synergizes expertise in Control, Communication, and Human Cognition from N.C. A&T and its collaborator University of Texas at San Antonio. TECHLAV addresses fundamental problems in modeling, analysis, control, coordination, test and evaluation of autonomous systems, serves as a national resource in education and research in Autonomy, provides outreach services in autonomy related area, fosters linkages among national institutions of higher education, government agencies and private companies and commercializes TECHLAV technologies for the benefit of the national economy.

About the Division of Research and Economic Development (DORED)

DORED manages N.C. A&T’s research enterprise. DORED provides services to faculty, postdoctoral research associates, student researchers, current and potential research partners, funding agencies, and economic development agencies. DORED serves the university and its research efforts through research services and project management, compliance and ethics guidelines, aiding in the submission of research proposals, handling financial and regulatory administration of all contracts and grants awarded to N.C. A&T, management of the university’s technology transfer and commercialization programs and promoting opportunities for undergraduates to conduct research.

Acknowledgements: This project is funded by the Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) and Test Evaluation/Science & Technology (T&E/S&T) Program and/or the U.S. Army Contracting Command Orlando (ACC-ORL-OPB) under contract W900KK-17-C-0002. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) and Test Evaluation/Science & Technology (T&E/S&T) Program and/or the U. S. Army Contracting Command-Orlando (ACC-ORL-OPB)