Students at These 4 Colleges Will Help NASA Shape Future of Air Travel

NASA's University Leadership Initiative tasks collegiate teams with solving challenges facing advanced air mobility and electrical usage for airliners and other aircraft.
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Published on March 27, 2023
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  • Three universities will take on the Advanced Air Mobility mission, while one investigates future electricity usage on airliners.
  • The university teams have the potential to win over $25 million over the next four years.
  • Each lead university will manage a team of other higher education institutions and aviation companies.

Students at four universities around the nation are getting the opportunity to work with NASA to improve the future of air travel.

NASA this month selected four universities to lead four teams of higher education institutions and aviation companies nationwide to improve aeronautics. New Mexico State University, Boston University, and the University of Notre Dame will focus on NASA's Advanced Air Mobility mission. Tennessee Technological University will investigate the future of generating electricity for airliners.

"This multidisciplinary approach enables the lead teams to partner with others, including student populations who are underrepresented or have not been involved before in aviation research," said Koushik Datta, University Leadership Initiative project manager.

"As we look to future growth in Advanced Air Mobility and an increasing emphasis on creating truly sustainable aviation, it's important we involve today's students in helping us solve tomorrow's challenges."

New Mexico State University will use current and projected data to discover how electrical grids like charging stations can power airliners.

Boston University will work to minimize noise from airliners caused by rapidly changing wind conditions from flying through dense urban environments.

NASA tasked Notre Dame with replacing an outdated manually controlled drone traffic control system. The team will create a system that allows drones to make automated safety decisions while flying.

Tennessee Tech is designing a new type of aircraft. An electrified 150-passenger craft that uses an ammonia-based propulsion, power, and thermal management system.

NASA said the teams have the potential to earn a collective $25.1 million over the next four years.

"The University Leadership Initiative is an integral part of our research portfolio," said Bob Pearce, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate associate administrator. "The multidisciplinary teams are directly contributing to our priorities and even leading the exploration of solutions beyond our current portfolio."