This spring, The University of Texas at Dallas’ team from the Departments of Computer Science (CS) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) won first place in the 2022 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) University Innovation Showcase. The autonomous drone competition was an event sponsored by Raytheon Technologies Corp. in which each team of students was asked to complete three unmanned aerial systems challenges through autonomous flight. Students had a budget allocated for tools, and the teams were given the freedom to develop novel approaches to tackle the set challenges. Each team had to use the same drone for all challenges.
UT Dallas was one of several universities that participated in the UAS Showcase Event in partnership with Raytheon Technologies. Other teams visited from various universities across Texas, including The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at El Paso, Southern Methodist University and The University of Texas at Austin.
During the showcase, each team was asked to complete several predefined challenges in a fixed amount of time. Raytheon employees supervised each challenge. Other aspects were evaluated, such as precision and completion time. The competition required the participating teams to develop a drone from scratch and enable it to perform several autonomous tasks. The drone must perform its tasks autonomously without human assistance throughout the competition.
The UT Dallas teams began work in the fall 2021 semester. Several teams from both computer science and electrical and computer engineering worked diligently on developing software for an autonomous drone to compete in the showcase. While building the software, the CS team worked alongside the ECE team as they built the hardware for a drone named Temoc Air to compete in the UAS showcase.
For challenge one, Temoc Air was required to lift off to a certain altitude and land autonomously after flying straight for 30 yards on a football field. For this challenge, the team implemented algorithms that make use of GPS navigation to allow Temoc Air to autonomously take off, fly straight for 30 yards and then land on the field.
During challenge two, Temoc Air was required to fly and search for the UT Dallas logo placed anywhere on a football field, then land on it. To accomplish this task, the team implemented computer vision algorithms to find the shape and color of the UT Dallas logo and then estimate the geolocation of the logo. Temoc Air then used this information to navigate to and land autonomously on the UT Dallas logo.
Challenge three of the showcase required Temoc Air to autonomously navigate through obstacles to reach the UT Dallas logo on the field. For this challenge, the team implemented object avoidance algorithms to avoid obstacles while flying using information from an onboard camera.
At the UAS showcase, Temoc Air performed very well, and the team was awarded the first-place trophy.
The UT Dallas team members were guided by Computer Science Professor Nhut Nguyen and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Marco Tacca. The team worked closely with Raytheon mentors Christine Nezda and Alfonso Lopez. The students spent two semesters gaining hands-on experience learning about the technical issues of hardware design, software design, construction and operation of autonomous aerial navigation systems.
Below is a complete list of all the team members from the spring of 2022 and fall of 2021:
CS Team Spring 2022:
CS Team Fall 2021:
Every engineering and computer science senior at UT Dallas is required to complete a team-oriented capstone project, or senior design course. This final project allows students to fully engage in the design process and put into practice their project-management and problem-solving skills. The course gives students hands-on design experience and prepares them for the work world.
UTDesign projects are proposed, sponsored and mentored by companies. Students not only get to work on a real-world problem, but they also work in a professional environment.
Each UTDesign team typically consists of 4-6 senior students working an average of 10 hours a week for two semesters or 15 hours per week in the summer. Computer Science offers a one-semester project during the spring and fall semesters. The team has the advantage to be coached by both a corporate mentor, who acts as the technical point of contact for the company, and a UT Dallas advisor.
Are you interested in sponsoring a capstone project? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at utdesign.utdallas.edu.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 4,000 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,010 master’s students, 140 Ph.D. students, 52 tenure-track faculty members, and 42 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2021. With the University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.