Aspiring Astronaut Brings Home Two National Awards

By: Shannon Frohme
June 11, 2015

Former CEAS Engineer of the Month, NASA Intern, and ACCEND student Brandon Cook, receives two prestigious awards to extend his graduate research work.

Brandon Cook

Brandon Cook

Brandon Cook, UC College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) aerospace engineering student is recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts (AIAA) as an emerging aerospace professional. His innovative Guidance, Navigation and Control research on unmanned aerial systems awarded him $2,500.

In addition to this achievement, Cook won the 2015 National Omicron Delta Kappa John D. Morgan Graduate Scholarship. Brandon was the Vice President for the UC Chapter of ODK, a national leadership honorary, during the 2014-2015 academic year.

As the single 2015 recipient of the national AIAA award, Brandon cannot express his gratitude enough. “I couldn’t believe it when I was notified of my selection for the AIAA Graduate Award—this will be an invaluable advancement towards the success of my research.”

Cook showcased his graduate research goals and projects from two summer internships at NASA Ames Research Center in his application for the AIAA award. This summer at NASA, Brandon looks forward to continuing research on unmanned aerial systems’ (UAS) application in traffic management systems.

As he wraps up his fifth year in the Accelerated Engineering Degree (ACCEND) program, Brandon will apply the award funds to further his research on “drone swarming.” He explains, “This technology seeks to simultaneously control multiple unmanned aircraft to complete a mission, while not colliding into one another.”

This research, winning him the Guidance, Navigation and Control AIAA Award, utilizes the ever-fascinating fuzzy logic technology in which Brandon previously won a GIAR award (Grants-in-Aid of Research). Brandon elaborates on how fuzzy logic will be applied to UAS swarm research, “Using human-like decision making processes in which the robot has the ability to “think” for itself, adapt to the situation, and then act to accomplish its desired tasks. Preliminary results show that using this bio-inspired technique can eliminate the risks of near mid-air collisions between aircraft.”

There is such a high demand for unmanned aerial vehicles to increase the efficiency of aerial delivery services, precision agricultural monitoring, fighting wild fires, monitoring natural resources, performing search and rescue missions, as well as filming athletic events.

To implement this research without disparaging the safety of current airspace systems, Brandon explains, “We must solve issues such as separation assurance and collision avoidance between manned and unmanned aircraft.”

What most impressed the AIAA was Brandon’s proposal explaining his graduate work on the improvement of safety precautions when integrating UAS into current airspace systems. Brandon speaks on behalf of his unique approach to solving this problem, “By developing an ‘Intelligent System’ (IS) for real-time situational awareness and resource allocation, a swarm of aerial robots could be used to resolve time-critical tasks in such complex environments.”

Brandon plans to pursue his PhD in aerospace engineering after completing his MS this summer, extending his research in UAS Traffic Management. He elaborates, “I aspire to develop state-of-the-art software that will allow low altitude operation for fully, or partially, autonomous vehicles. My first goal after completing my PhD is to apply to become a United States astronaut.”

To date, Cook’s research has granted him the opportunity to present at two international aerospace conferences and is published in “Logic Programming: Theory, Practices and Challenges” by Nova Sciences Publishers, Inc. He was also the September of 2012 UC CEAS Engineer of the Month.

With his conglomeration of esteemed accomplishments and 4.0 GPA, Brandon’s goal of becoming a US Astronaut is certainly not too far from reach. The College of Engineering and Applied Science congratulates Brandon Cook on his tremendous accomplishments and much success in his future endeavors.

Brandon would like to specially thank Dr. Kelly Cohen and Dr. Elad Kivelevitch for their continued guidance and support during his undergraduate and graduate career.