WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. – Northrop Grumman has partnered with two California State University schools to sponsor a year-long student project that successfully demonstrated the collaboration between unmanned aerial and ground vehicles.
On June 2, engineering students from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) gathered at the experimental flight field outside of San Luis Obispo, Calif., for a demonstration that marked the program’s conclusion this year.
During the successful demonstration flight, an unmanned aerial vehicle provided an accurate geolocation solution to a ground vehicle. The aircraft located a target that resembled a large, red exercise ball, and transmitted its coordinates to a ground station, which then directed a ground vehicle to navigate to the target in the field.
To prepare for the demonstration, Cal Poly students from San Luis Obispo enhanced a fixed-wing remote control aircraft with sensors and a communications link, while students from the Pomona campus outfitted a ground vehicle with complementary sensors and communication abilities. Approximately 50 students from the two CSU campuses participated in the program, forming virtual teams to remotely collaborate on the project.
“These students rose to the challenges and devised innovative solutions while gaining multidisciplinary skills that will be useful throughout their careers,” said Charles Volk, vice president and chief technology officer of Northrop Grumman’s Navigation Systems Division. “Northrop Grumman was excited to be involved in this hands-on learning opportunity for these students, especially considering the pressing need for next-generation engineers who possess the specialized technical expertise sought by industry.”
“This kind of collaboration is a win-win situation for both universities and industry,” said Subodh Bhandari, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. “Universities receive much-needed financial support and expertise from industry that are essential when looking to incorporate advanced topics into the curriculum. In return, industry gets a workforce that is ready for a higher level of responsibility than is typical for entry-level graduates.”
Northrop Grumman provided some supplies and designed the program’s curriculum. Additionally, Northrop Grumman employee volunteers served as mentors by critiquing the project’s student-led design approach.
The program leveraged three Northrop Grumman core capabilities: unmanned vehicles, sensors and geolocation, and distributed systems integrated through software.
Northrop Grumman and the two CSU campuses plan to continue the partnership in the next academic year by building on the initial project concept. Northrop Grumman is an ongoing contributor to science, technology, engineering and mathematics educational activities and initiatives in the local community.