Middle Tennessee State University has entered into a historic educational partnership with the Army and Marines studying how unmanned aircraft and military robots can work together in order to save lives.
MTSU Aerospace Pro-Pilot student Steve Lawn taught himself how to operate the military robot on loan from the Robotic Systems Joint Project office, which has a satellite office at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, AL.
"It took a little bit to get used to," Lawn said. "The manuals are well written, and once you figure out the basics of the controls it's very intuitive."
Lawn and other MTSU Aerospace students are helping to advance cutting-edge technology by researching how robots on the ground can be used in tandem with unmanned aircrafts in the air.
"I think it's great, it's a huge opportunity especially for those of us who are here now," Lawn said.
Today, MTSU became the first university in the nation that will research both the Raven aircraft and ground robots.
A pact between the university and military officials was signed by MTSU President Dr. Sidney McPhee and Army Lt. Col. Nick Kioutas.
"It also allows the military to work with MTSU in developing academic programs, and providing academic and career advice for students," McPhee said.
One of the two robots on display at the Tom Jackson Building on campus recently returned from Afghanistan. It was used to save lives of soldiers, now they are in the hands of students.
"There are a lot of ways we don't know how to use them, like counter bad guys," Kioutas said. "Right now we're using it to counter IED's; we'll like to get better at that."
MTSU students are hoping to come up with other ways to use these robots and unmanned aerial vehicles, like in agriculture, crime scenes, and surveying pipes and power lines.
"Our students are going to look for new innovated ways, and if there is one thing students are, is innovated," MTSU Unmanned Aircraft Systems Interim Director Mark Blanks said. "Students can come up with a thousand different ways to do things, some good and some bad."
Once MTSU students come up with new findings, the information will be passed on to the Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, headquarter in Warren, Mich. to train soldiers.
"Better trained soldiers will help save lives, and there is still so much to learn about how to make a system that's intuitive," Kioutas said.
"You see the predator shooting missiles and blowing things up, and stuff like that. That's not really what the majority of unmanned systems are for," Lawn said. "They are for saving lives and not [to] blow things up."
This is the second partnership MTSU has signed with military officials. Last year the university entered an agreement that would support educational and research efforts of the Army's Raven unmanned aircraft.
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