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Embry-Riddle Group Secures EPA Grant

Can Drones Help Improve Air-Quality?

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the private, U.S. institution specializing in aviation and aerospace programs, has been awarded a $25,000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant under the auspices of the agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) program. The Embry-Riddle student group to which the grant was awarded is studying means by which Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) may be employed to help to improve air-quality. What’s more, subject group is one of only 16 U.S. teams chosen to travel to Washington D.C. for purpose of presenting its work to representatives of the EPA.

Embry-Riddle associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the college’s Energy Systems Lab stated: “We’ve competed and won five different EPA P3 awards over the last ten-years, so we have a very good track record with this competition. Our research using smaller and lighter low-cost sensors on uncrewed aircraft is a unique proposal.”

According to Dr. Marwa El-Sayed, assistant professor of civil engineering and the director of Embry-Riddle’s Sustainability and Environmental Engineering Lab (SEEL), the project leverages Embry-Riddle’s expertise in aviation and engineering to investigate a low-cost solution to better monitor air quality and atmospheric pollution. Dr. El-Sayed set forth the project seeks to implement the three pillars of sustainability—social sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability—to characterize air quality using various low-cost sensors in three different modes. Currently, such sensors are expensive, require high-degrees of maintenance, and are suitable only for ground-based measurements.

“This study has the potential to produce viable systems to be used by the public, and systems to be implemented in manned and unmanned vehicles,” Dr. El-Sayed asserted.

Students and faculty from Embry-Riddle’s departments of civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and aeronautical science are collaborating on the research. A student organization known as MOVE UAS is also involved. Collectively, the contributing groups have set out to integrate, test and implement the sensors vis-à-vis extant UAS systems.

Dr. Kevin Adkins, Embry-Riddle associate professor of aeronautical science and director of the university’s Unmanned Vehicle and Atmospheric Investigation Lab, remarked: “Appreciably spaced surface observations of air-quality can now be easily supplemented by uncrewed aircraft systems that provide high-resolution three-dimensional observations.”

Embry-Riddle student and UAS team civil engineering lead Andres Munevar stated the project builds on the work of past students who conducted air-quality testing, which included attaching sensors to a weather balloon.

“We want this to become long-term research,” Munevar enthused. “We look at this as a small portion of what’s to come.”

FMI: www.erau.edu


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