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Ohio University computer science student-alum team promos invention at Ohio Aerospace Institute Forum

Angela Keane December 13, 2013

Scott Nykl presents at OAI Forum Nov 2013

An Ohio University computer science duo comprising a Ph.D. candidate and recent grad took their invention in aircraft wake-avoidance technology to the recent Ohio Aerospace Institute's Fourth Annual Industry Forum in Cleveland last month.

Doctoral student Chad Mourning and 2013 doctoral graduate Scott Nykl, who both perform research at the Russ College's Avionics Engineering Center, joined aerospace leaders from private businesses, research institutes and governmental organizations for the two-day event Nov. 12-14. During the forum, Mourning and Nykl presented videos of work they had conducted with the Avionics Engineering Center to help smaller aircraft fly more safely.

"We created a new cockpit display that warns pilots about wake turbulence – the same kind of turbulence, or 'jet wash,' that caused Maverick and Goose's jet fighter to crash in the movie 'Top Gun,'" Nykl explained.

According to Nykl, aircraft in flight create a turbulent vortex at each wingtip known as a wake vortex. These vortices — essentially invisible, horizontal tornadoes — are a grave threat to smaller aircraft, especially during landing and takeoff.

"The vortices are powerful enough to literally tear small planes into pieces," he said. "Our instrument helps pilots avoid them."

Mourning said they received positive feedback on their work. "People really seemed to like our Wake Turbulence Avoidance technology, and we got a real sense that people were interested in what we have to offer," he shared.

When Nykl and Mourning received an invitation to present, they were very excited to attend and network with fellow Ohioans interested in the aerospace industry. "It seemed like a good way to get involved in the Ohio aerospace ecosystem, and get perspectives from other people in the industry on how useful our research would be to them," Mourning said.

Nykl and Mourning also recently started a business, Affine Technologies, to commercialize a related technology that creates visual navigation systems for unmanned aerial vehicles at lower cost. The company was one of five regional startups to receive $20,000 in seed funding and extensive business coaching as part of the summer 2012 Innovation Engine Accelerator program.

Ohio University's Avionics Engineering Center has been performing aviation navigation research for the past 50 years and is recognized internationally for its unique expertise in electronic navigation, surveillance, and communication systems development and implementation.