Michigan launches UAS project, forms new partnership

By The UAS Magazine Staff | November 25, 2014

Central Michigan University researchers are using UAS to monitor Great Lakes ecosystems while the Northern Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Consortium has formed a partnership with one of six FAA-designated test sites in the U.S.

CMU researchers are using UAS to monitor and assess wetland ecosystems around the Great Lakes region. The Griffiss International Airport UAS test site at Rome, New York, and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance) have formed a partnership with NMUASC.

NUAIR is a New York-based nonprofit coalition of more than 50 private industry, academic institutions and military assets and operations, managing UAS test sites in New York and Massachusetts.

Based in Alpena, Michigan, NMUASC is a flight test center grouping of UAS manufacturers, military, academia, research centers, government agencies and private partners. The largest airspace complex east of the Mississippi, it offers four test sites and a turnkey solution for UAS operations including flight testing, aerial operations, research and development, training and education, and manufacturing.

The partnership with NMUASC enables the organizations to cooperate in development and operations of UAS in the Northeast. Adding the Michigan-based consortium to NUAIR’s current partnership with New York and Massachusetts expands key service offerings, adds new test sites capabilities, expands international connections and creates joint opportunities that benefit all three states.

At CMU, Benjamin Heumann, director for the Center for Geographic Information Science and lead investigator, is working with two master students using a UAV to integrate data collection into assessment and monitoring protocols for ecosystems in the Great Lakes region. They’re operating a single-rotor Avenger helicopter built by Leptron Industrial Robotic Helicopters.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a several million dollar initiative, that they have to monitor and restore the Great Lakes, so we would like to have this technology integrated into part of that program,” says Heumann.

The self-funded pilot project is still getting off the ground and making sure all the technology works, according to Heumann. “Eventually, we’d like to work with federal, state and government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help support us in monitoring efforts and to help support them by providing aerial data they could use to help improve their efforts and activities.”

The university is one of two in the state that have active flying programs related to environmental science, which according to Heumann, brings a unique aspect to the program.