By Alivia Nuzzo and Colleen Carow
Leading professional institutions in the field of aviation navigation recently honored two engineers with Ohio University's Avionics Engineering Center.
Maarten Uijt de Haag, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, was awarded the Institute of Navigation's annual Thomas L. Thurlow Award for significant contributions to aviation safety and navigation.
Sanjeev Gunawardena, an avionics research engineer who recently obtained his doctorate from Ohio University, received the William E. Jackson Award from the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA).
The institute honored Uijt de Haag for his contributions to laser detection and ranging-based navigation, or LADAR, which uses lasers to determine the distance between an aircraft and an object or surface. He also was recognized for his contributions to precision aircraft approaches and synthetic vision systems (SVS), which enable pilots to fly accurately and safely in low-visibility conditions.
One of Uijt de Haag's most significant projects includes a demonstration of laser-based guidance used by Ohio University's DC-3 aircraft during a precision approach. Another project involved a NASA-sponsored effort to prototype and flight-test SVS computer monitors. Mounted onboard the aircraft, the monitors contain databases of details about terrain and provide the pilot with a display of the external environment and other important information about the state of the aircraft such as speed, altitude, attitude and heading. SVS enables pilots to fly accurately and safely when weather or terrain decreases actual visibility from the cockpit.
Uijt de Haag said almost a dozen electrical engineering graduate students from the Russ College were integral in the work. "The award means a lot to me in that my work -- and more importantly, my students' work -- has really made a significant contribution to this field," Uijt de Haag said.
The RTCA award received by Gunawardena is given annually to an outstanding graduate student in the field of aviation electronics and telecommunications.
Gunawardena was recognized for his dissertation, which describes a new GPS receiver architecture that radically improves how well GPS signals can be observed and tracked, particularly when interference and jamming are present. Experts believe these techniques eventually will be used in aviation, military and civilian GPS receivers.
As part of this work, Gunawardena collaborated with the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., to help deploy a system of stations that monitor GPS irregularities. The data helps researchers better understand and solve problems that can occur with GPS-based aircraft landing systems. Satellite malfunctions, errors caused by the ionosphere and signal reflections from objects on the airport surface all can contribute to GPS irregularities.
Gunawardena, the 14th winner from Ohio University in just more than 30 years, said he was surprised to hear he had won. "I'm very proud to be a part of Ohio's winning tradition for this award," he added.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has the second-highest number of wins with eight. Other award winners have come from such renowned research institutions as Stanford and Princeton.
The Avionics Engineering Center performs research for NASA, the FAA, aviation industry leaders and major airports across the world. Its broad scope -- the center conducts research across a wide range of avionics-related problems, such navigation systems, landing systems, flight testing and communications -- makes it unique among U.S. facilities specializing in avionics research.