UC Aerospace Engineering Graduate Student Accepted to Prestigious Multicopter Workshop

By: Ashley Duvelius
May 1, 2012

UC Aerospace Engineering graduate student and PhD candidate, Chelsea Sabo, has been selected to participate in the International Graduate School on Mobile Communications at the Ilmenau University of Technology in Ilmenau, Germany. Out of 200 applicants from all over the world, Sabo is one of only eight to be welcomed to the workshop.

The International Graduate School on Mobile Communications at the Ilmenau University of Technology in Ilmenau, Germany has chosen UC Aerospace Engineering graduate student and PhD candidate, Chelsea Sabo, to participate in a prestigious workshop on simulating and programming self-propelled, multi-rotor multicopters in ad-hoc networks. Sabo is one of only eight female college students selected to attend out of 200 applicants from all over the world. This acceptance is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a UC first!

Sabo first became intrigued with the works of Stephen Hawking and his books while in high school. She realized most unanswered questions lie within the universe. Therefore, Sabo decided to dedicate her life to exploring, discovering and researching. Since mathematics and science had been her best subjects, she went on to pursue an engineering degree. Sabo’s thirst for investigating the universe, using creativity, problem-solving and building things was quenched in UC’s program of Aerospace Engineering.

Sabo and Cohen

Chelsea Sabo with her advisor, associate professor Kelly Cohen

Choosing UC was a no-brainer for Sabo. She knew the university has a great reputation for bringing in motivated and innovative professors, as well as providing them the resources they need to explore, grow and expand in their field. UC’s great educational and world-class research opportunities were the foundation for her graduate career. Sabo adds, “If not for my advisor, Kelly Cohen PhD, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful in my field!” In addition to her upcoming participation in the multicopter workshop, Sabo is the recipient of an impressive American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Graduate Award earlier this year.

At present, Sabo’s research focuses on the distributing of multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and reducing effects communication constraints have on them. Communication constraints include restriction by line-of-sight, maximum communication ranges or a need for uninterrupted transmission. These restrictions present a practical challenge to those who use UAV’s and usually result from the UAV’s heavyweight hardware systems.

Current technology overlooks such communication constraints and requires an operator(s) to distribute and pilot UAV’s. Sabo is working to develop an autonomous algorithm that would reduce the heavy load on the operator, allowing them to make better decisions throughout missions. As UAV’s are being utilized more frequently in both military and civilian operations, there is a dire need for Sabo’s ideal algorithm.

As our technology advances, autonomous vehicles and robots are being used to perform tasks considered to be dirty and dangerous in military and civil operations. Operations like those in nuclear power plants, exploration of Mars, investigating behind enemy lines in battlefields, wild-fire surveillance, border patrolling and weather forecasting commonly use UAV’s.

Sabo explains the growing need for her research, “The circumstances where UAVs are increasingly being used in supplying surveillance include search and rescue missions, forest fire monitoring, traffic surveillance, agricultural applications, pipe-line monitoring, border patrol, and military applications.  Because of the numerous applications of UAVs, their presence will continue to grow.  Effective and safe autonomous algorithms are necessary to ensure the continued integration of UAVs into shared air space."

"Therefore, as we move towards a world where much of our surveillance is being performed by small, lightweight, mobile sensors, limited communication ranges will always be a concern.  However, this restriction makes the allocation of individual UAVs for cooperative strategies a very difficult problem and has been the focus of my dissertation work.”

In her dissertation work, Sabo experiments with and compares two extreme cases. First, UAV’s working completely independently to accomplish their tasks and then UAV’s staying in constant contact with each other. She states, “We’re going from the assumption that no matter where the vehicles are they are able to communicate freely to the assumption that they can only communicate if they are close enough to each other (their communication ranges overlap).” Historically, UAV’s have been shown to work together and share information, making them more efficient. Sabo’s research questions what information UAV’s should share, how often they should share information, whether or not they are going to share information, when and where they are going to meet to do so, whether they should stay in constant contact with one another, and would they work better as a group or should they work independently.

Presently, Sabo has resources allocated to experiment with algorithm validation this summer in UC’s Cooperative Distributed Systems Lab. However, she hasn’t yet had the opportunity for much hands-on, hardware experience. Sabo remarks, “Being accepted into the International Multicopter Girls Camp gives me the chance to bridge the gap between developing control algorithms in simulation to actually implementing them in real UAV hardware. This better prepares me to perform experimental testing and further understand the foundation on which this research is built. I believe the workshop will make my research all the more meaningful.”

The International Graduate School is funding the registration fee, accommodations and travel to Ilmenau for the 8 undergraduate and graduate students. Each student's objective is to deploy a small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) swarm, which is capable of creating a disaster relief network in the air and on the ground. This multicopter workshop opens numerous new doors for Sabo’s graduate research and for her future career.

Sabo enthusiastically prepares for a future in research, focusing on developing systems. As an Associate Member of the Intelligent Systems Technical Committee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, she has discovered an interest and plans to pursue work in Intelligent Systems.

Nobody could be more proud of Sabo than her advisor, associate professor Cohen. He reflects, “I firmly believe that in the past 5 years, I have known no other graduate student who has achieved as much as Ms. Chelsea Sabo in our program at the University of Cincinnati.”

Sabo’s outstanding achievements and promising research contribute to UC’s reputation for excellence taking flight!