Federal Aviation Administration grants $10 million to OHIO's Avionics Engineering Center

Published: June 16, 2022 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University’s Avionics Engineering Center (Avionics) has been awarded a $10 million agreement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enable the FAA to obtain specialized technical support from Avionics personnel, as well as access to Avionics test facilities.

This is a five-year agreement that, in part, recognizes Avionics as a unique research organization specializing in the research, development, evaluation, implementation and sustainability of electronic navigation.

“In 1963, the founder of Avionics, Dr. Richard H. McFarland, was looking to create a center that would have a mix of theorists and practitioners to offer quick, practical solutions to problems for the FAA,” Mike DiBenedetto, Ph.D., senior research program engineer at the Avionics Engineering Center, said.

The award of this agreement continues a collaborative partnership with the FAA that spans almost six decades, beginning with the first FAA equipment grant in 1963. The agreement has evolved since 1963, however. Today when the FAA needs support from OHIO, it issues a task order communicating its request. From there, the Avionics team responds with a plan detailing the technical approach, staffing plan and budget for the proposed solution.

The $10 million agreement directly funds the support and execution of each task completed by Avionics. Through the decades, this partnership has remained strong largely because Avionics has been a hub for subject matter experts and testing equipment useful to the aviation industry.

“Avionics focuses on every aspect of a product’s lifecycle and the FAA has a need for that capability. When they need a system or concept, we are an integral part of their team that crafts the paper design and then turns it into real hardware or software. We then take that product into the field and test it,” DiBenedetto said.

Avionics is home to nationally recognized experts, as well as faculty and graduate students from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, who lead investigative research advancing the technological mission of the FAA’s navigation programs. The expertise, research facilities and specialized flight test aircraft within Avionics will help to improve the safety and efficiency of the navigation and landing services in the U.S. National Airspace System.

This partnership creates unique opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students, as well. Students have been able to take on various projects that allow them to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical problems — many of which become useful tools utilized in the civil airspace.

“As engineers, it is our obligation to produce and implement ideas that are beneficial to society. We want to provide our students with the opportunities to do research that can be impactful, and the Center has that inherent capability,” DiBenedetto said.

This partnership with the FAA has allowed Avionics to flourish at Ohio University, giving students, faculty and staff real-world challenges to address on a daily basis. The team at OHIO has tested, repaired and developed equipment and tools for the FAA, gaining the FAA’s confidence and trust over the course of a 60-year partnership.

“We have test facilities that mimic real airport environments, and we have aircraft with airborne data collection systems that we can actually go and fly. This is fun work for us, but taken very seriously,” DiBenedetto said.

The hope is that Avionics can continue this partnership for many years to come because it is mutually beneficial to both the FAA and Ohio University.

“We want to continue to be a part of the emerging technology in this industry by embracing forward-looking ingenuity and creativity in our partnership,” DiBenedetto said.