Authors: Anessa Quintanilla
Press Release: February 2021
Increasingly autonomous (IA) systems include a wide range of features and capabilities, from unmanned robots to devices that have the ability to adapt to different environments. The use of IA systems can have a lasting impact on individuals and the development of technology, making it essential to analyze and tackle issues IA seeks to solve.
With society’s technological advancements and the application of IA systems in areas such as space exploration, air mobility, health technology, and zero waste, expanding opportunities through autonomy research has become crucial to its success. Autonomy research is used to understand IA systems, with a focus on identifying areas of improvement, providing new perspectives, and determining the effectiveness of IA systems. Further development of these systems has the potential to advance space exploration, make technology reliable and safe, and provide numerous opportunities for society.
At California State University, Northridge’s Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM (ARCS), talented students and faculty across multiple disciplines work with collaborators such as NASA, and businesses like Medtronic, Autodesk, and more to become leaders in autonomy research. Through their partnerships, student fellows and faculty are able to work on innovative research projects that aim to refine, enhance, and create IA systems that can be used to support NASA initiatives and benefit the public. ARCS’ research opportunities also focus on advancing underserved and underrepresented students towards pathways in these fields while developing their leadership skills.
ARCS’ multidisciplinary autonomous research provides new insight into IA systems from a variety of social and technological areas, such as trustable autonomy, moral autonomy, human-machine teamwork with explainable IA, and autonomy for future manufacturing. Autonomous technology goes beyond making systems “smart,” rather it allows systems to reach their goals while operating independent of outside control.
The increasing complexity of IA systems presents an array of questions and possible challenges that need to be addressed in order to provide accurate and beneficial technology. Autonomy research is absolutely critical when facing complex, multifaceted issues that can greatly affect the development of IA systems and the progression of society.
Multiple teams at ARCS are researching the vast potential of IA systems through a variety of fields ranging from social and physical sciences, engineering, art and design, humanities, public health, and mathematics. Utilizing multiple disciplines in autonomous research is important to the reasoning, development, and execution of IA systems. NASA, a sponsor, and collaborator for ARCS, is especially dedicated to autonomous research as it plays a crucial role in the planning and execution of future missions, and the progress of IA systems in key areas like aviation, space, and planet exploration.
For instance, ARCS’ urban air mobility communications and navigation research project, led by Dr. Ashely Geng, 10 student fellows, and NASA collaborator, Shaun McWherter, will be determining minimal operational performance standards (MOPS) for autonomous aircraft systems. The team plans on conducting flight tests for drones and formulating MOPS for different components, such as the visual line of sight. As autonomous aircraft systems, like drone package delivery, continue to operate in public spaces, the team’s research can lead to improvements in the efficiency, safety, and social acceptance of this technology.
ARCS continues to move forward in autonomy research to make new discoveries that can have a positive impact on the world. The Center’s new 2021 cohort, a diverse group of student fellows from multiple disciplines, will be leading research projects that touch on different social, medical, and technological aspects of IA systems. As a research center that prioritizes convergence and the education of its student fellows, ARCS recruits skilled students and interested faculty to expand their projects.
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