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Avionics Engineering Center celebrates 50 years of research in aviation technology

Adrienne Cornwall | Jan 13, 2014
avionics 50th year celebration
Photo by: Rebecca Miller

Avionics Engineering Center celebrates 50 years of research in aviation technology

Adrienne Cornwall | Jan 13, 2014

Photo by: Rebecca Miller

Joined by a group of sponsors and alumni, the faculty and staff of the Avionics Engineering Center marked the 50th anniversary of its 1963 founding at a reception Thursday in Walter Hall.

In his welcome remarks, Director Mike DiBenedetto paid tribute to the center’s founder, Dr. Richard H. McFarland, for envisioning the possibility of a center that combines theoreticians, subject matter experts and technical specialists to support the air transportation industry with immediate, practical solutions to challenges in navigation and landing systems.

“The technologies used have and will change with time,” DiBenedetto said.  “What has withstood the test of time is the viability of our center’s founding principles.”

In addition to supporting federal regulators and industry, the center provides graduate and undergraduate students from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology opportunities to participate in meaningful research in avionics, the study of electronics and electrical systems used in aviation.

Sponsor company Calhoun Analytics, which relies on the center’s research staff to fulfill research and development support with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, was represented by its founder, Sean Calhoun, BSAS ’01, BSEE ’01, MSEE ’06, himself a former Russ College student.

“I’ve worked for three different companies including the one I own now, and each time I’ve reached back to the Avionics Engineering Center for some technical support. There’s so much expertise and knowledge base at the center. Soaking in as much as you can and absorbing it was very beneficial to my learning process as a student,” Calhoun said.

According to DiBenedetto, early research projects at the center focused on improvements to instrument landing systems, requiring countless hours of test flights to ensure accurate measurements on a paper strip chart. With the advent of digital data capture, research has expanded in scope to include satellite-based navigation and landing, automatic surveillance broadcast to support improved aircraft position reporting to air traffic control, studies of the effect of wind turbines on navigation and surveillance technology, advanced flight control and flight display technology, alternative means for position navigation and timing, autonomous navigation systems, wide area sensing, and unmanned aerial vehicles and systems. 

The center’s current work with Calhoun Analytics involves developing a sensitive voice system for integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace, a niche within avionics in which the Avionics Engineering Center is at the forefront.

“You can never know it all, and to know where to find the information is often more valuable and efficient than trying to learn or relearn something that somebody already knows,” Calhoun added.