Air Force keeps spending on collaboration: Wichita State picks up $23m contract
A new aviation research lab at Wichita State University (WSU) will take the lead on a programme that has been awarded a US$23.5 million Air Force contract.
The United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) awarded the contract to WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) to expand their programme on fleet sustainment.
According to a statement from the university, the scheme will expand the framework for developing innovative in-service inspection technologies for advanced structures and bonded joints, validating high-fidelity composite repair analysis techniques, and assessing aging composite structures for life extension and structural enhancements.
The university was chosen for the project in part due to its newly established Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems (ATLAS), which will take a lead on the research.
“Wichita State has strategically invested in technology to assist the aviation and manufacturing industries become more competitive and efficient, while providing applied learning opportunities for our students,” said WSU Interim President Andy Tompkins.
“This extended partnership with the DoD (Department of Defence) and AFRL is an endorsement of the high-calibre capabilities and expertise at this university and we’re honored to have the opportunity to work with them in this capacity.”
ATLAS will lead the collaboration between AFRL researchers, defence contractors, and universities. The project aims to enhance tools to design-manufacture-certify advanced integrated structures, incorporating machine-learning and artificial intelligent algorithms with automated technologies for manufacturing next-generation composite airframes.
The Air Force is a huge contributor to university research budgets, collaborating with specialist schools across the country.
Just last month, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced a contract with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which focused on accelerating artificial intelligence (AI) technologies through fundamental research in computational intelligence, reasoning, decision-making, autonomy, and relevant societal implications.
The agreement includes selecting eleven airmen for a research and development collaboration team designed to field practical AI solutions for real-world, national security challenges.
The Air Force plans to invest approximately US$15 million per year as it builds upon its five-decade long relationship with MIT.
A week earlier, AFRL launched a new university-led Center of Excellence with the University of Florida to focus on assured autonomy in contested environments.
This centre joins seven other universities as AFRL partners through the Center of Excellence programme.
While each has its own very specific research objectives, the programme aims to “strive to enhance collaborations, strengthen AFRL in-house technical capabilities and generate excitement between AFRL and university researchers in fields important to the future success of the US Air Force.”